Northern Nash’s quest toward a possible Big East 3A Conference boys basketball championship actually began two years ago, when a sophomore-laden group came within one victory of taking the crown – only to be vanquished by a loss to rival Rocky Mount in the final game of the regular season.
After some excruciating setbacks last winter that eliminated the Knights from title consideration, they took a this-is-it attitude toward the 2016-17 campaign – and their five-strong senior class, along with some talented underclassmen, has delivered to date.
Northern Nash has rolled through its opening four Big East 3A contests this season, winning each by double digits or more. That trend continued Monday with an 80-69 triumph at Southern Nash as the Knights used a strong second period to take charge – and then held off a Firebirds’ threat in the second half.
Senior point guard Darius Spragley – Northern’s undisputed team leader – paced his squad with 25 points as the Knights improved to 16-2 overall and 4-0 in the Big East.
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Southern Nash, which was part of a three-way tie for the league title last year – slipped to 5-13 and 0-4 despite a career-high 27 points from junior Tyler Wilson, all of which came in the second half of action.
“We came so close (to a conference championship) when our seniors were sophomores,” said Northern Nash third-year head coach Henry Drake. “They now see that this is their last chance. Over the last two seasons, our guys have seen what it takes to be successful in this league. You have to be ready to play every night, and you can’t take anything for granted.”
Northern Nash also won the girls game by a 42-22 total, marking the first Big East win of the season for the tradition-rich Knights (7-11, 1-3), who are currently in rebuilding mode under veteran head coach Grover Battle.
Despite the loss, Southern Nash still has three more victories (3-12, 0-4) than the last two winless years combined.