Northern Nash coach Grover Battle was concerned how his forwards would play after missing practice time because of the winter storm.
The Knights had a rough practice Monday, hoping to have Kiana Thomas and CeCe Harrison ready for the interior banging and the inside battle in the Big East Conference Tournament.
It didn’t take Thomas and Harrison long to ease their coach’s concern Wednesday at Rocky Mount High School.
The duo sparked an early run as Northern Nash led nearly wire-to-wire in a 64-30 victory against Nash Central in the Big East Conference semifinals.
“We need to be more physical,” Battle said. “I think by us practicing, it gave us the opportunity to get back in to the mold of hitting each other, bumping and doing things like that.”
Northern Nash stretched a 10-0 run after Nash Central scored the first point of the game to build the lead and put together a pair of second-half surges to erase any doubt against the undersized Bulldogs (16-9), who were dwarfed by the Knights’ pair of six-footers
“It’s a confidence thing when you’re smaller,” Nash Central coach Terri Cash said. “You need to be physical and box out. We seemed to be trying to do those things, and all you have to do is reach your hand up. It can be frustrating.”
No. 4 Nash Central likely will be a wild-card entrant into the NCHSAA state playoffs.
Top-seeded Northern Nash (22-1) wasted little time in the second half expanding its lead. The Knights, who allowed just nine second-half points, closed the third quarter on a 15-2 run and started the fourth with a 16-2 spurt.
“Somebody is always stepping up of the five or six girls that we’ve got,” Battle said.
Northern Nash will play in its fifth straight Big East Conference championship game, but in the past four years, the Knights have fallen short of the conference title. This year, they’ll again try to knock off a familiar foe – rival Rocky Mount High.
“It’s very important,” said guard Alexus Hill, who scored 21 points and pulled down 12 rebounds. “It’s a huge milestone. We’ve gotta get coach Battle another one. He’s counting on us, and we told him we have his back.”
Northern Nash 64
Nash Central 30
NC 7 14 4 5 – 30
NN 16 15 17 16 – 64
NC: Ni’Ya Styles (12 points); Brittani Strickland (5 points); Kathryn Williams (5 points); Michaela Nelms (4 points); Krystal Atkinson (2 points); Rebecca Speight (2 points).
NN: Alexus Hill (21 points); Kiana Thomas (20 points); CeCe Harrison (8 points); Kayla Tucker (6 points); Alexia Hines (4 points); Suzie Sykes (3 points); Jahlia Williams (2 points).
Justin Hite can be reached at 407-9951 or firstname.lastname@example.org