BAILEY – Wilson Hunt ran Rocky Mount High out of the gym with a killer press, and for the rest of the season, the Gryphons expect other opponents to try the same tactic.
Rocky Mount passed the first test. The Gryphons received double-doubles from Immanuel King and Dante Battle and showed improvement against a press, defeating Southern Nash, 57-45, on Friday at Southern Nash High School.
“We felt embarrassed (after Hunt), but we’re going to get it back, though,” King said. “Coach was telling us to read the newspaper after the Hunt game, and it was a bad feeling seeing that word ‘clobbered.’ I was thinking in my head, ‘I don’t want that no more.’”
King finished with 12 points and 13 rebounds, while Battle had 12 points and 11 rebounds.
The Gryphons (9-5, 2-1 Big East Conference) changed the starting lineup, swapping a forward for a guard, and the trick worked. Rocky Mount was able to break the Firebirds’ press and establish itself in halfcourt, where this team is at its best.
Rocky Mount shot just under 50 percent and outrebounded Southern Nash, 42-26.
“People are going to press us,” Rocky Mount coach Mike Gainey said. “People are going to press us, and we’ll have to work our way through it. I mean, if I was scouting Rocky Mount, that’s what I would do right now.”
Southern Nash (6-10, 2-1) kept itself in the game despite a high number of turnovers (21) and a below-average shooting percentage (38), but the Firebirds never made a run to challenge the Gryphons’ lead. Southern Nash had the deficit down to nine in the fourth quarter but turned over the ball three straight times.
“We could never make a shot and then get a stop,” Southern Nash coach Robbie Kennedy said. “We’d get a stop and then turn it over. Or we’d score, then they would score. But I thought we fought hard, and I think we improved.”
The Gryphons are racing to improve for what they believe is their biggest game, the rematch against Hunt next month.
“In my mind, we’re coming for Hunt,” King said. “That’s our biggest goal right now. I think when we get past that goal, then we can move on.”
Rocky Mount 49 Southern Nash 43
Rocky Mount survived 25 turnovers, a 10-point halftime deficit and Southern Nash’s Destiny Burgess scoring 26 points to stay unbeaten in the Big East.
The Gryphons (9-4, 3-0) made a 9-0 run midway through the third quarter to inch within one, then Keyanna Spivey beat the buzzer at the quarter to tie the game.
Southern Nash (7-9, 1-2) traded leads with Rocky Mount in the fourth but the Gryphons received a bucket from Spivey with 1:30 to play, then a technical call on the Ladybirds gave Rocky Mount a four-point lead that all but clinched the game.
Nick Piotrowicz can be reached at 407-9952 or firstname.lastname@example.org