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prep basketball | boys: rmh 65, nc 56 | girls: nc 40, rmh 28

Big fourth quarter gets Gryphons past Nash Central

Gryphons find easier ways to score in knocking off Bulldogs in return to court

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Rocky Mount High’s Javeon Jones, right, drives to the basket as Nash Central’s Chris High defends Wednesday at Nash Central High School.

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By SAMUEL EVERS
Sports Writer

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Scratching and clawing to stick around after an early deficit, Rocky Mount tied the score in the third quarter on numerous occasions, only to see host Nash Central pull back ahead.

But that finally changed with 6:18 left in the fourth, when RHMS’s Rodney Alston swooped toward the rim with a left-handed layup for a one-point lead, giving the Gryphons their first lead since it was 4-1.

And four minutes later, Alston finished off another layup, this time to put his team up by 11. By then, the Gryphons had blown it open, using a 23-point fourth quarter to storm ahead for an improbable 65-56 win over over the Bulldogs, who were both wrapping up their non-conference schedule on Wednesday.

The win for Rocky Mount (10-2) also made good on a Dec. 29 overtime loss to Nash Central (9-5) in the Cleveland Christmas Tournament, the last game the Gryphons had played.

Alston finished with 19 points to match teammate Shyheim Battle’s output, both of whom led the fourth quarter charge, turning frenetic defense into consistent attacks on the rim.

“We weren’t hitting from the outside, so we just kept attacking, getting and-ones,” Alston said. “That helped us keep up in the game when we were down.”

At one point in the third quarter, Battle took a tepid jump shot that missed the rim entirely, much to the visible chagrin of coach Michael Gainey. That was it for the outside shots for Battle.

“These guys, all of them fall in love with that three-point line, to me it hurts you more than helps you. I almost came off the bench and cried at Shyheim’s shot,” Gainey said. “We talk about role -- got to know the role. The jumper is a pretty shot, but that layup and-one is the best looking shot to me.”

There were plenty of layups, especially in that fourth quarter.

From the Gryphons’ perspective, it was a return to what their lead players do best. To Bulldogs coach Renny Taylor, it was more about his team’s sloppy play.

Nash Central, which had won six in a row entering the night, led by six after one, five at halftime, and four after three quarters. Then came the turnovers.

“The lost opportunity was not taking care of the ball. We invented ways to throw the ball away. We threw it in the bleachers, we threw to Rocky Mount, we threw it to everyone except anyone in a white jersey,” a disappointed Taylor said. “We tried different guys and they turned it over, too. Everything else we did pretty good. But if you’ve got 32 turnovers, that’s 32 times you didn’t get a shot off.”

The Bulldogs were led by Ta’Rod Brown (17 points), Dominick Dixon (10 points) and Jay Smith (nine points) but went quiet in the fourth quarter, scoring only 10 points in the fourth quarter, including a meaningless three-pointer in the final seconds.

For Nash Central, which begin conference play against Wilson Beddingfield on Friday, it was the first action since Jan. 2. It was Rocky Mount’s first game in 13 days; they open Big East play, also on Friday, against Wilson Fike.

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