Unchallenged at the top of the league all season, the No. 1 seed in the Big East Conference officially belongs to Northern Nash.
The Knights jumped on Wilson Fike with its pressure from the outset, eventually winning, 68-56, Monday at Northern Nash High School.
“We knew we had to come out from these past few games we’ve been having because we haven’t played to what we could play to,” Northern Nash forward Kiana Thomas said. “We had to come out and get back straight.”
Third-ranked Northern Nash (20-1, 8-0 Big East Conference) smothered Fike with its pressure defense, scoring 14 points before the Golden Demons were on the scoreboard. Fike (8-14, 0-9) turned over the ball on seven of its first eight possessions and had 22 giveaways by halftime.
Thomas had a double-double of 20 points and 11 rebounds for Northern Nash, which took a 40-17 lead into halftime.
“I thought we played hard in the first half and did what we needed to do,” Northern Nash coach Grover Battle said.
The Knights’ lead had reached 30 points by the end of the third quarter, but the game became much closer than Northern Nash would have liked. Behind E.J. Proctor, who had a game-high 25 points, Fike was able to cut the lead to 21 by the time Battle pulled his starters.
The Golden Demons immediately went on a 15-2 run that cut the lead to 12, which forced Battle to re-enter his starters to see out the win.
Because of schedule changes and a career fair at Northern Nash, the Knights haven’t had a regular practice in more than a week.
“I can tell the things we’re not doing correctly,” Battle said. “There’s some things we’re not doing the way I want us to do. We’ve been letting the girls play on what they know how to do.”
No matter what happens in the final two games, Northern Nash will have the top seed in the conference tournament because it owns the tiebreaker against second-place Rocky Mount High. The Knights can clinch back-to-back Big East regular season titles if they win either of their next two games, against Nash Central on Wednesday or against Rocky Mount on Friday.
Wilson Fike 68 Northern Nash 60
Trevon Virgil scored 28 points as Wilson Fike was able to rescue a win in the fourth quarter against Northern Nash.
The Golden Demons (17-3, 4-5 Big East) led by as many as 16 in the first half before the Knights (7-14, 1-7) were able to storm back to take a lead into the fourth quarter.
Fike took a 53-50 lead with just fewer than four minutes to go. With the Knights needing a bucket, they turned over the ball, which lead to a three by Virgil.
It was a 13-0 run before the Knights could answer.
“I was debating whether to take a timeout and set something up. (Fike) was making a little run, but I let them play through it,” Northern Nash coach Rick Ruffin said. “Then they went up, 56-50, and I think it turned it for them a little bit.”
With Fike’s win, Northern Nash will have to win the conference tournament to make the playoffs.
Northern Nash 68
Wilson Fike 56
WF 8 9 7 32 – 56
NN 24 16 14 14 – 68
WF: E.J. Proctor (25 points); Savannah Eatman (10 points); Rebekah Lampley, Dajah Horne (8 points); Alexia Evans (3 points); Alexis Spells (2 points).
NN: Kiana Thomas (20 points); Alexus Hill (19 points); Jahlia Williams (10 points); Suzie Sykes, Alexia Hines, Kayla Tucker (4 points); CeCe Harrison (3 points); JArnese Flowers, Amanda Richardson (2 points).
Wilson Fike 68
Northern Nash 60
WF 17 15 10 26 – 68
NN 11 14 21 14 – 60
WF: Trevon Virgil (28 points); MyQuan Gooding (17 points); Jeremy Phillips (11 points); Anthony Evans, Quay Barnes (5 points); Brandon Monk (2 points).
NN: D.J. Prunty (13 points); Adam Renner, Marcellus Major, Demonte Johnson (10 points); Isaac Dupree, Travon Clarke (5 points); Tyler Jones (3 points); Kyree Clarke; Dominique Evans (2 points).
Nick Piotrowicz can be reached at 407-9952 or npiotrowicz@ rmtelegram.com