WILSON – Northern Nash’s patience was tested Thursday night.
In 20 previous games, the Knights were given ample opportunity to set up their trapping defense and to run on the break after an opponent’s missed shot.
Wilson Fike was in no mindset to race up and down the floor with No. 1 Northern Nash in the semifinals of the Big East Conference Tournament at Wilson Hunt High School.
Every other team had tried and failed in that manner, so the Golden Demons walked the ball up the court, spread the floor and made the Knights play in a pace that was was not optimal for the No. 1 3-A team in the state.
Northern Nash needed the better part of three quarters to make the necessary adjustments, and in the end, it held off a pesky fifth-seeded Wilson Fike squad, 45-39.
Northern Nash will aim for a coveted Big East Tournament title tonight when it plays against Rocky Mount High.
“We can be a half-court team, but our offense is getting the ball out,” Knights junior Alexus Hill said. “They were the first team to play us like that. As the game went on, and we got into our offense, we got better.”
Hill, who led Northern Nash with 15 points, admitted that the Knights were frustrated after a first half in which they led, 16-13.
Being lulled to sleep on defense seemed to affect Northern Nash’s offense, which did not catch a consistent beat until the fourth quarter.
Wilson Fike’s E.J. Proctor scored a game-high 21 points for the Golden Demons, who trailed by only four points going into the final quarter.
A 14-5 run to start the fourth quarter gave Northern Nash its biggest lead of the game (38-25), but even then, the outcome was not definite. Wilson Fike clawed back into the contest and pulled within four points with 30 seconds remaining.
Hill, Shakyia Mercer and Khadijrah Richardson combined to hit five consective free throws down the stretch to secure the victory.
While the pace of the contest surprised the Knights (21-0), coach Grover Battle said his players adjusted well to a different style of play.
“That was good strategy on (Wilson Fike’s) part,” Battle said. “I told them it wasn’t going to be a 10- or 15-point blowout. Anytime you play someone three or four times, they are going to have a different strategy. They have good coaches over there.”
No.1 Northern Nash 45
No. 5 Wilson Fike 39
WF 6 7 7 19 – 39
NN 5 11 8 21 – 45
WF: E.J. Proctor (21 points); Shatera Black (12 points); Jameka Ruffin (4 points); Briyanna Hunter (2 points).
NN: Alexus Hill (15 points); Khadijrah Richardson (11 points); Quinesha Lynch (6 points); Deja Lewis (4 points); Camille Branch (4 points); Shakyia Mercer (3 points); Jordan Oldham (2 points).
Jessie H. Nunery can be reached at 407-9959 or email@example.com