With its primary ballhandler and leading scorer on the bench, Nash Central proved, at least to itself, that it is a complete team.
In the absence of senior point guard Ni’Ya Styles, who missed the game because of an illness, Nash Central coach Terri Cash told her entire team that it needed to step up Wednesday night against Southern Nash.
Deztanie Hill took on more ballhandling responsibility, Brittani Strickland’s punch off the bench turned into a team-high 18 points and the Bulldogs stepped up as one with eight players scoring four or more points in a 62-54 victory at Nash Central High School.
“It shows other people that they can contribute,” Cash said. “A lot of times, because Ni’Ya has been a leader and she is able to score big buckets, a lot of times I think we kind of hand off to her.”
Nash Central (13-5, 3-2 Big East Conference) will play four games in one week causing fatigue to be an issue for Styles.
With her off the court, the Bulldogs were able to hold off a late run from Southern Nash, (7-11, 1-4) which played without starting forward Khadijah Kale and rotation player Christana Pulley.
Both were out with injuries as the Southern Nash roster was depleted to just eight players.
“That’s all we can do,” Southern Nash coach Wayne Bryant said. “If we don’t get some of them off of the injury list, I might have to pull some up from the JV team.”
The Ladybirds cut the lead to just four points in the fourth quarter before a 10-1 run spurt by the Bulldogs pushed the game out of reach. Southern Nash pulled within five later but only momentarily as the lead sprung back to eight.
“It was an important win,” Strickland said. “We have a good basketball team. We just have to put a lot into it.”
Destiny Burgess scored a game-high 33 points for Southern Nash but played much of the second half in foul trouble.
Once Southern Nash found out that sharing the basketball led to easier points, the Firebirds were able to race away from Nash Central and into second place in the Big East Conference.
With a 19-2 run that spanned the halftime break, the Firebirds pulled away with tight defense and balanced offense. During the run Southern Nash needed just one basket outside of the paint – an open three-pointer by Aaron Newkirk.
Seven different players scored in the third quarter alone, and Southern Nash held Nash Central to just two points through the first five minutes of the quarter.
“It was a good job of everybody playing hard,” Southern Nash coach Robbie Kennedy said. “We have to win on defense. If we play good defense, it helps our offense.”
Southern Nash (8-10, 4-1) held Nash Central to just one basket during its eight-minute run. By the time Aaron Spivey knocked down a three-pointer, the Bulldogs (4-15, 0-5) were down by 14.
“They just came to play the second half, and we didn’t,” Nash Central coach Renny Taylor said. “They just played harder.”
Justin Hite can be reached at 407-9951 or firstname.lastname@example.org