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Superior effort propelled the visiting Southern Nash High varsity boys basketball team to a 55-45 3-A Big East Conference road victory against Hunt on Tuesday night.
Behind a double-double of 19 points and 14 rebounds from senior Darius Edmundson and an active match-up zone defense, the Firebirds dominated the second half after the teams had battled to a 21-21 halftime deadlock.
The outcome left both teams at 1-2 in the Big East. Overall, Southern Nash, home against nonconference foe Cleveland on Wednesday, improved to 8-6. Hunt, which hosts Franklinton in a Big East clash Friday, sank to 9-6.
“They came to play and we weren’t ready to play,” commented Hunt head coach Dwight Taylor. “They outplayed us in every phase. This was our poorest performance.”
However, head coach Robbie Kennedy and Edmundson suggested Southern Nash responded with its most complete 2018-19 outing in coming off a league loss to front-running Northern Nash on Friday. Edmundson, who hustled for 10 rebounds in the third quarter alone, explained his team realized lack of the necessary energy at the outset cost the Firebirds against Northern Nash.
“We had to come out with even more energy to beat Hunt,” he contended. “We know we have to come out (energized) all the time. We had a really good fan base for that game against Northern Nash, and we really had to show out for them tonight.”
Added Kennedy: “We have been really inconsistent. I think there’s not a lot of difference in all six teams (in the Big East) and on any night. ... I told our guys this was a big game and we needed to try to get one on the road. Three of our first four (conference games) are on the road.”
The Firebirds snapped the 21-21 standoff with the first four points of the second half. Suddenly, the advantage was 40-30 in the hyped Firebirds’ favor on a 3-pointer each from Edmundson and sophomore Chason Royal and a Edmundson feed to senior Armando Dellavalle for his only field goal.
Southern Nash bolted to its largest lead of 47-30 with the first seven points of the final quarter. The Warriors did not score until junior ShaKei Hines buried a 3-point shot with less than 4 1/2 minutes remaining. Hunt drew no closer than the final margin from there.
Kennedy and Edmundson credited the Firebirds’ 3-2 zone defense.
“We have struggled guarding the ball,” Kennedy explained the decision to play zone. “We think it slowed them down a little bit. We wanted to make them shoot from outside and take jump shots.”
Added Edmundson: “They like to run a little set and we kind of shut them down from doing that. As a team, tonight is the best we’ve played.”
Remarked Taylor: “We knew we the were going to play zone. Copy cat. When someone sees you are struggling against the zone, you can expect to see it the next time out.”
Edmundson was complemented by senior guard Artavius Allen with 10 points and junior Chris Allen and Royal with eight each. Royal snared eight rebounds.
Senior Chris Bates came off the bench to net 10 points for the Warriors, while 6-foot-4 senior Zion May added nine.
Southern Nash wound up with a 37-32 rebounding edge and finished with nine turnovers as compared to 10 for Hunt. Neither team shot well, with the Firebirds hitting 19-of-48 shots from the floor for 40-percent accuracy, while Hunt was 17 of 48 for 35 percent.
Hunt fortunes took a jolt when leading scorer and senior leader Malcolm Coley picked up two fouls in the first 90 seconds and sat out the remainder of the first half.
“That threw us out of rhythm,” Taylor noted, “and they were silly fouls, too.”
Southern Nash jumped to an 8-2 cushion before Bates came off the bench to rally the Warriors to a 14-10 margin after one quarter. Hunt upped the cushion to 19-12 but didn’t score again in the first half until Bates scored inside. The Firebirds grabbed a 21-19 edge on Artavius Allen’s 3-pointer.
“If we get to the last four minutes with the lead, we have got so many guards that we can spread them out,” Kennedy said. “We made shots. I was happy with the way we played.”
Edmundson impressed both head coaches — especially with his hectic feat of 10 rebounds in the third quarter.
“He was running around everywhere getting the ball,” Hunt’s Taylor observed. “He was getting his own misses. And we were standing there, watching.”
SOUTHERN NASH (55)
Rambert, A. Allen 10, C. Allen 8, Jones, Foster, Parker 2, Royal 8, Dellavalle 2, Barnes, Vick 6, De. Edmundson, Da. Edmundson 19.
Hammonds, Wade 5, Coley 5, Taylor 2, Hines 6, Clay, Jones 4, Carson 4, May 9, Bates 10.
Score by quarters:
Southern Nash 10 11 19 15 — 55
Hunt 14 7 9 15 — 45