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Mason Blake, a 6-foot-2 senior not noted for her scoring ability, popped in a field goal that halted a Northern Nash spree and ignited the Fike High varsity girls basketball team to a 43-37 Senior Night conquest Tuesday evening.
The outcome proved doubly rewarding for Lady Golden Demons seniors Blake, Sabrina Holley, Jada Lee, Teresa Kent and Aniya Thigpen.
The victory coupled with archrival Hunt’s 55-44 loss at Franklinton left Fike with an opportunity to share the 3-A Big East Conference championship with the Lady Warriors and land the league’s top seed for next week’s playoffs. Fike, 6-3 in the conference and 17-5 overall, visits Hunt in its regular-season finale Thursday evening.
Blake’s basket stopped a Lady Knights’ 11-0 tear that had chopped Fike’s 28-15 halftime lead to 28-26 midway the third quarter. In the last three minutes of the quarter, Blake blocked two shots, added a pair of free throws and pulled down two rebounds — finishing with eight points and nine rebounds.
“It was one of my better offensive games,” she said. “But on the shot, I was flustered. I didn’t know what to do and I couldn’t see anybody else to throw it to. I just shot it.”
After Blake’s timely bucket, a free throw from junior Jah’Asia Pernell and Lee’s layup off a steal boosted Fike’s lead to 33-26.
Northern Nash (4-5 in the Big East and 11-6 against all foes),closed the deficit to 35-34 in the fourth quarter but failed on six consecutive possessions to either tie the score or take the lead. The Lady Knights went without a point on 14 consecutive possessions.
In the meantime, a 3-pointer from Thigpen, a Thigpen bucket on an assist from Lee and Lee’s free throw staked Fike to a 41-34 margin with 48.8 seconds remaining.
Lee sparked Fike with 12 points and five assists. Thigpen managed 10 points and six rebounds.
Kristian Johnson, a 5-foot-10 sophomore who triggered Northern Nash’s comeback bid, managed 11 points, while senior Markela Avent netted nine.
Fike dominated the first half behind eight points from Lee and seven from Pernell.
However, head coach Grover Battle explained his Lady Knights switched to man-to-man defense the second half and his guards started spotting the openings inside that escaped their glances in the first half.
Senior Sheniya Mercer and freshman Kanasia Arrington joined Johnson in leading Northern Nash’s 11-0 start to the second half. Arrington feasted inside.
But during the 14 empty possessions, Northern Nash frequently failed to get off a shot.
“The shots were available,” Battle assured, “We just didn’t take them. We had opportunities.”
But Blake and the Lady Demons needed to finish a mission.
“We got complacent,” Blake said. “We thought we had the game won — it was automatic. But we stayed composed and pulled it out.”
Fike head coach Jeff Nelson praised Blake for “playing hard” and she mentioned reasons for the more energetic performance.
“It was Senior Night,” she pointed out. “And (Northern Nash) blew us out the last time and we wanted to show them it was a fluke.”
NORTHERN NASH (37)
Avent 9, Thigpen 2, Wiggins 2, Mercer 7, Arrington 3, Evans 3, Johnson 11.
Holley, Lee 12, Barbee, Kent 2, Pernell 9, Sage 2, Thigpen 10, Blake 8.
Score by quarters: