Although it was just the eighth conference game of the year, the noise and sense of excitement coming from Northern Nash’s locker room late Friday night explained it all.
The Knights are not just members of the Big East Conference.
They are major players, as well.
Isaiah Alston scored a game-high 31 points, and surging Northern Nash knocked off neighborhood rival Nash Central, 65-50, to stake claim to a tie for third place in the Big East Conference.
“We have a lot of people that are dedicated to it, and they have a lot of heart,” said senior Donte McNeil, who played on the the squad that finished without a league win last season. “We don’t have a lot of size, but we want it. When you want it, you go get it.”
With a week remaining in the regular season, Northern Nash cannot catch league leaders Wilson Hunt and Rocky Mount High, but it is putting itself in position to be a dangerous squad when the postseason comes calling this month.
The Knights (8-10, 4-4 Big East) controlled the second half. Alston opened the third quarter with back-to-back three-pointers, and his team never trailed the remainder of the way. Northern Nash controlled the boards and was efficient in the halfcourt during the game’s final 16 minutes.
Nash Central (10-7, 4-4 Big East) was led in scoring by Jaquan Wilkins’ 15 points, but none of the Bulldogs were effective with or without the ball. The Bulldogs shot 29 percent from the floor.
“We had post players at the end of the game with one and two rebounds,” Nash Central coach Renny Taylor said. “We’ve run every rebounding drill known to mankind. Until players say, ‘That is a key to winning,’ we’ll never win another game.”
Last season, heads were low and barely a word was uttered by Knights players after such a game. Times quickly are changing for the Knights, who have only two seniors.
“I really thought with this team we could get to the playoffs,” Northern Nash coach Rick Ruffin said. “I’m real happy with where we’re at right now. I like the position the kids have put themselves in. We have to keep working, and good things will happen.”
One goal down, many more to go.
Northern Nash 49, Nash Central 29
Northern Nash’s girls’ squad claimed the Big East regular-season title with an easy 20-point victory against Nash Central.
Khadijrah Richardson led the Knights with 15 points. Richardson is one of six seniors who have paced the program to a 65-8 record during their careers. Northern Nash (19-0, 8-0 Big East) is the No. 1 3-A team in the state, but it also has its eyes on a postseason that ultimately will define its success.
“The regular-season title is a reward we got trying to reach our next big goal, which is playoffs season,” senior Quinesha Lynch said. “We still have a lot to work on.”
Northern Nash 65
Nash Central 50
NC 15 15 9 11 – 50
NN 15 13 20 17 – 65
NC: Jaquan Wilkins (15 points); Nathaniel Pittman (12 points); Wendell Hunter (8 points); L.J. Porcher (6 points); Cole Smith (5 points); Daniel Pittman (4 points) NN: Isaiah Alston (31 points); D.J. Prunty (12 points); Jeremy Freeman (7 points); Donte McNeil (6 points); Marcellus Major (3 points); Jaquez Avent (2 points); Tyler Brantley (2 points).
Northern Nash 49
Nash Central 29
NC 7 6 1 15 – 29
NN 13 12 11 12 – 49
NC: Dana Kelly (10 points); Brittani Strickland (7 points); Ni’Ya Styles (6 points); Marquesha Washington (3 points); Deztanie Hill (2 points); Krystal Atkinson (1 point) NN: Khadijrah Richardson (15 points); Alexus Hill (12 points); Quinesha Lynch (8 points); Shakyia Mercer (6 points); Suzie Sykes (4 points); Deja Lewis (3 points); Alexia Hines (1 point).
Jessie H. Nunery can be reached at 407-9959 or email@example.com