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A game between two teams that weren’t supposed to be there — at least according to the seeds — ended with the Southern Nash High varsity boys basketball team advancing to the third round of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association 3-A playoffs with a 65-52 win at Hunt on Thursday night.
In the third meeting between the Big East Conference foes this season, all won by the Firebirds, Southern Nash fans felt like they deserved to be the higher seed after beating No. 24 Hunt (15-10) twice. But head coach Robbie Kennedy said he told everybody tonight to just go out and play.
The Firebirds took control of the game with a 18-2 run from the last 30 seconds of the first quarter until the last two minutes of the second quarter for a 35-20 lead. Kennedy said he took advantage of Hunt’s youth by throwing a bunch of different defenses at them.
“I don’t like playing them man because Coach (Dwight) Taylor runs a flex and it’s hard to defend, so we played some different zones and we knew their guards were young so we just tried to keep switching up the defense every four or five possesions just to keep them off balance,” Kennedy said.
Hunt made a run in the third quarter as it cut the Firebirds’ lead to seven at 45-38. But heading into the fourth quarter, Kennedy challenged senior Darius Edmundson to be more of a force. Edmundson came out and scored nine of the team’s 20 points in the fourth quarter, including an exclamation-point dunk over a Hunt defender.
“I was frustrated in the third because I got hacked a lot and didn’t get any fouls so in the fourth quarter I had to pick it up,” Edmundson said. “That was a frustration dunk right there. I had to get that one. I didn’t think he was going to jump.”
Edmundson finished with 17 points. The game-high went to Artavius Allen, who had 18 points. Chason Royal had 14 points for the Firebirds.
The Warriors’ Shaq Wade had a team-high 14 points, while ShaKei Hines added 12. Hunt loses seniors Zion May, Chris Bates and Malcolm Coley, but Taylor believes brighter days are ahead for his team.
“I’m proud of this group, they’re very young and had to learn on the fly,” Taylor said. “If they come back and we work on the things we need to, we should be back in place trying to fight for conference championships.”
Southern Nash will hit the road on Saturday to play top-seeded Durham Hillside (27-1). This is the first time since 2016 the Firebirds have made it this far and only the second time since 1998. Kennedy said his team has been in every game except two this year and he expects to fight for this on until the end.
“We’ve played good teams all season,” Kennedy said. “We’ve played some pretty good teams and our conference is pretty good so I think we’re prepared.”
SOUTHERN NASH (65)
A. Allen 18, C. Allen 5, Jones 3, Foster 3, Parker 3, Royal 14, Vick 2, Da. Edmundson 17.
Wade 14, Hines 12, Coley 2, Taylor 6, Clay 7, Jones 7, Bates 4.
Score by quarters:
Southern Nash 20 17 8 20 — 65
Hunt 18 6 14 14 — 52