Bulldogs nab NEW boys title

By Charles Alston, Graphic Correspondent

ROCKY MOUNT -- When your school is relatively new, your athletic program's history is made virtually every year.

But Nash Central's boys basketball program has never seen a season like this one before.

The Bulldogs claimed their first-ever regular season conference title last Friday when a packed gym at Rocky Mount watched them dissect the Gryphons in a 78-64 Senior Night contest.

Nash Central's win, combined with Southern Nash's upset victory over Wilson Fike, gave the Bulldogs, a three-game lead with two contests left on the regular season calendar.

Nash Central will also host the league's conference tournament, beginning next Monday evening.

The Bulldogs used hot shooting from their starters, a solid bench and a mountain of Rocky Mount turnovers to breeze past the Gryphons (11-10, 3-5 NEW 6), who ended a league five-game homestand with a distasteful 1-4 record.

"I was hoping we'd get the program to a point to where people would respect us and we are playing good basketball," said Nash Central head coach Michael Mosley, whose team has posted a school record 19 wins (19-2, 8-0). "I knew we would be hard to guard, and I also knew that sometimes it would be hard to guard people. To this point, we've been hard to guard."

The Gryphons battled hard early and had a slight lead in the opening minutes. But RMHS' last advantage came on a Montrell Battle driving layup with 5:30 left in the first half at 18-17. The Bulldogs never let them see the lead again as Trey Sumler (team-high 21 points) and Greg Speight kept burying outside jumpers to move Nash Central out front.

Though NCHS had a slight 34-30 halftime lead, the Bulldogs were forcing Rocky Mount into turnover after turnover. Sumler's hot hand helped get Nash Central a 60-48 margin by the end of the third.

Nash Central had problems stopping freshman forward Tashawn Mabry. The ninth grader poured a career-high-tying 32 points to go with his seven rebounds and four blocks. However, the Bulldogs put the clamps on Gryphon point guard Alonzo Sharpe. Sharpe, who was coming off games of 24 and 18 points, was amazingly held scoreless in the contest.

Throw in the 22 turnovers the Bulldogs forced (NCHS had only 12) and it was easy to see the Gryphons weren't going to make a miracle rally.

Michael Speight and Kwame Foster each popped in 15 for NCHS, while Lamar Battle the double-figure party with 10. Montrell Battle was Rocky Mount's other top scorer with 14.

"They're a young team and sometimes they didn't recognize the defenses we used," said Mosley, whose squad has taken three games over Rocky Mount in the same season for the first time ever. "They're going to get better. There's no doubt in my mind about that.

"I'm real happy for these kids, in particular David (Lacey) and Greg," said Mosley on winning the regular season crown. "When we first started the varsity program, those two were on the team. I'm so happy for them because I know how hard they worked to get to this point. They made some sacrifices."

GIRLS GAME: In the opening minutes of the girls' contest, it look like Rocky Mount would run the Lady Bulldogs back down Sunset Ave. The Lady Gryphons had a whopping 19-5 lead after the first quarter.

But Nash Central battled back, only to see the win slip away in the final minutes by a 59-56 count.

In the second period, behind 11 points from Jessica Harrison, the Lady Bulldogs came back to make it respectable -- trailing 28-21 at the half.

Nash Central (8-13, 2-6) forced a tie at 34-all in the third before a mild RMHS rally gave it a 44-41 lead going into the final eight minutes.

A Harrison free throw with 4:30 left in the game actually put Nash Central ahead 50-48.

But Rocky Mount's Stephanie Allen (team-high 13 points), who was in foul trouble most of the second half, didn't let her four fouls deter her. She scored nine of Rocky Mount's last 11 points to propel the Lady Gryphons (13-8, 5-3) to victory.

Harrison led Nash Central with 18 points. The win also kept Rocky Mount in tie with Southern Nash (13-7, 5-3) for the No. 2 spot in the conference. SouthWest Edgecombe (16-2, 8-0) clinched the regular season crown with its win over Northern Nash.