Nash Central suffers a perfect storm in loss to North Pitt
By SAMUEL EVERS
Tuesday, February 20, 2018
Without their coach and with a fourth matchup against the same team in 14 days, the Nash Central Bulldogs just had one of those nights.
One of those six-first-quarter-points, 2-of-17-from-3-point-range, 11-field-goals-made-all-game nights.
In the end, it was a perfect storm that came in and ended the Bulldogs’ season in the first round of the NCHSAA 2-A state tournament, with 11-seed Nash Central falling at home to 22-seed North Pitt by a 49-35 score.
Head coach Renny Taylor, who had coached the Bulldogs (15-11) up to their conference title loss against Farmville Central last Friday, was out because of a surgical procedure, which had been planned since Christmas time.
“The biggest thing in our last three games, we had a head coach,” Taylor’s assistant coach and son, Marques, who was filling in for Renny, said. “Everything got thrown off.”
Nash Central had played the Panthers (15-11) twice to close its regular season, then again in the Eastern Plains Conference tournament, then, in an unlikely seeding quirk, was matched up for Tuesday’s first round tournament game. The Bulldogs had beaten them the previous two times and ended the season with a 2-2 split after the loss.
“We know a lot about each other. We have a lot of respect for their head coach,” said North Pitt coach Mark Carson, who Renny had shared the news with on Monday. “When you know each other so well, you know what they’re going to do. It’s just a matter of execution.”
For the first quarter, there wasn’t a lot of execution on either side. The Panthers led after the first quarter, 8-6, with the Bulldogs scoring all six from the free-throw line.
Four straight buckets by North Pitt in the second quarter, including two and-ones, finally allowed some separation, with a bucket at the buzzer by NCHS’s Vinsa Phillips bringing the halftime score to 24-16.
Poor play considered, it was a manageable deficit for the Bulldogs.
“First half, nothing felt right. Nothing was falling for us. We were running plays, just nothing was connecting,” senior AJ Styles said. “We were upbeat coming out the half, staying positive. We knew we had to come out and hoop. We knew we had to come out and be stronger the first half.”
Styles’ plan worked, if only for a little bit, with the Bulldogs finally stringing together a collection of productive possessions; a 3-pointer by Tim Bridges opened the half, a runner inside by Ta’Rod Brown came next, and a bucket inside by Chris High cut the lead to two points at the 5:11 mark of the third.
On the next Panthers possession, the Bulldogs forced a stop, then hoisted a 3-pointer on the other end that would have given NCHS its first lead of the game.
It missed long, and the Panthers breathed deep and recovered.
“Our kids just calmed down and made some easy baskets,” Carson said.
After calling a timeout, North Pitt negotiated back the momentum and finished the final 12 minutes of the game on a 21-9 run.
“We weren’t getting back on defense, boxing out, getting rebounds,” senior Tim Bridges, who finished with six points, said. “Too many second chance points.”
Despite the quick flurry to begin the second half -- which included 10 points in four minutes -- the Bulldogs never scored more than 10 in a period, finishing with quarterly outputs of six, 10, 10, and nine.
“It just didn’t happen for us. I do hate it for the seniors. We have a couple of three-year guys where it just feels like they’ve been out here forever,” Taylor said. “First round, North Pitt again and again and again, it’s too bad. It would have ended eventually but I would’ve liked to keep it going.”