Nash Central found itself in a familiar position: Down to the wire with the game still in doubt in the final minutes.
But the final result didn’t come from what the Bulldogs did in those waning moments. Instead, the ultimate downfall of Nash Central in its 52-48 loss to Wilson Hunt on Friday was what happened in the quarters leading up to the final few seconds.
“Through the game, we have to play hard,” Nash Central coach Terri Cash said. “When there was a loose ball, they were the ones diving for it. We were just reaching for the loose ball.
“There’s a difference.”
Nash Central was beat in hustle points and on the defensive glass, where Wilson Hunt (7-6, 1-2 Big East Conference) scored double-digit second-chance points.
The Bulldogs (12-5, 1-2) looked good at times, hustling to loose balls and forcing turnovers with their full-court pressure, but they also struggled – a mirror of their up-and-down season thus far.
“Every loose ball, we have to go for it,” said Bulldogs’ guard Ni’Ya Styles, who scored a team-high 12 points. “... We try to keep pushing the ball. That’s what we have to do more to win.”
Brittani Strickland added nine points off the bench.
After trailing by eight points in the second-half, the Bulldogs took the lead with 12 unanswered points only to fall behind in the minutes. Down by four, Nash Central forced three straight turnovers with its pressure defense in the final two minutes but was unable to trim the lead, missing six shots in response.
“We can’t play basket-for-basket,” Cash said. “We have to get stops, and defensively, we’re not doing what we need to do to get stops as a team.”
Early on, the Bulldogs looked succinct against the Warriors’ zone defense. Despite being better against man defense, Nash Central shared the basketball and found gaps in the zone for easy buckets.
Nash Central took a four-point lead just moments into the second quarter before they broke down.
“When things look good, they look good because they’re doing what they were told to do,” Cash said. “When they get away from the system and start doing what they want to do, things start going south.”
Wilson Hunt 66 Nash Central 45
At times, the Bulldogs were crisp – passing through the Warriors’ press and not allowing Wilson Hunt easy buckets.
Then, there were times when they were not as crisp, allowing Wilson Hunt to remain unbeaten in Big East Conference play and take the outright lead in the league.
“We had guys that just made passes that I’m still trying to figure out,” Nash Central coach Renny Taylor said. “I’m telling you. It’s like they didn’t even look at who they were throwing to. They just threw the ball.”
Nash Central (4-13, 0-3 Big East) figured out the press again in the second half, closing a 16-point lead to just eight before watching deficit balloon back to 21 points.
Wilson Hunt 52
Nash Central 48
WH 13 15 12 12 – 52
NC 14 12 12 10 – 48
WH: Alexus Williams (15 points); Briuanna Anderson (9 points); Destinee Hinnant (8 points); Dani Harris (7 points); Kiana Ballard (6 points); Nakeisha Jones (4 points); Endye Frazier (3 points).
NC: Ni’Ya Styles (12 points); Brittani Strickland (9 points); Kathryn Wilkins (8 points); Krystal Atkinson (6 points); Rebecca Speight (5 points); Deztanie Hill (4 points); Alexis Jones (3 points); Myia Spivey (1 point).
Wilson Hunt 66
Nash Central 45
WH 24 12 12 18 – 66
NC 10 10 16 9 – 45
WH: Keenon Tabron (16 points); Justin Jefferson (15 points); Quan Kent (13 points); Josh Willingham (8 points); Dexter Wright (6 points); Ra’Shod Shipman (4 points); Mike Bryant (2 points); Orlando Davis (2 points).
NC: Aaron Spivey (24 points); Daniel Pittman (11 points); Jack Williams (4 points); Tyreeq Harrison (4 points); Garrison Vick (2 points).
Justin Hite can be reached at 407-9951 or firstname.lastname@example.org