Hunt's Bria Griffith (5) is pressured by Rocky Mount's Je'Daeiaza Mattocks (22) and Ashley Hatfield during Thursday night's opening tournament semifinal in the Southern Nash High gym. The Lady Warriors were dealt a 52-34 loss.
Sheldon Vick | Special to The Times
Head coach Tiffany Parks and her Hunt players are a picture of dejection during the late stages of Thursday night's tournament semifinal against Rocky Mount in the Southern Nash High gym. To Parks right is Tatiana Smith and to her left is Destinee Pierce.
Sheldon Vick | Special to The Times
By Tom Ham
Senior Staff Writer
STANHOPE — The Hunt High varsity girls basketball team realized its upset hopes didn’t look promising when it trailed 31-16 at halftime although denying leading Rocky Mount scorer Keyanna Spivey a field goal and limiting the 5-foot-9 senior to four points.
Accurate-shooting senior Michelle Gainey and fast-starting sophomore Mya Pittman provided the first-half firepower as Rocky Mount, the 3-A Big East Conference regular-season champion, proceeded to a 52-34 victory against No. 4-seeded Hunt and trotted into Friday night’s championship game at 6 against Nash Central.
The Lady Warriors, 17-8 in head coach Tiffany Parks’ first season, now await next week’s North Carolina High School Athletic Association 3-A playoffs.
“We accomplished our goal (against Spivey),” Parks noted, “But No. 11 (Gainey), she’s something. She’s a great player. We thought we had a defense that would stop her, but we missed the target on No. 11.”
Gainey, the daughter of Lady Gryphons head coach Pam Gainey, connected on 5 of 6 shots in the second quarter en route to a game-high 19 points. Spivey prowled inside the second half and bounced back for a double-double of 14 points and 14 rebounds. Spivey spent the first half being frustrated by the defense of Hunt senior Destinee Pierce and by her turnovers. Pittman fired in Rocky Mount’s first nine points and did not score again.
Hunt’s top scorers were freshman Bria Griffith and sophomore Tatiana Smith with seven points each. Senior Bryson Lee, Pierce and freshman Amani Sutton added six each.
“I was ready for No. 34 (Spivey),” Pierce said. “I had already planned on playing hard defense on her. But what we needed to do was box out and rebound. That kills us.”
Keeping the score more respectable was the fact Rocky Mount committed 24 turnovers as compared to 14 for Hunt. But Rocky Mount ruled the rebounding 45-29 as senior Ashley Hatfield, who did not score, claimed 15 rebounds. Sophomore Rachael Cox paced Hunt with seven recoveries.
The Lady Gryphons, thrice victorious against Hunt this seaon, zipped to a 12-2 margin and Hunt came no closer than 21-13 on Smith’s basket.
Leading Hunt scorer Kayla Kent, who missed Wednesday’s practice because of sickness, did not play until 4:47 remained in the second quarter. She did not score.
The deficit became insurmountable when the Lady Warriors did not score a field goal the first five minutes of the second half.
“I was pretty pleased with most of the girls’ effort,” Parks reviewed. “The younger girls, especially, were playing really hard — that’s nice.
“As long as we were within 10 points, it was manageable. But when got farther behind than that, we rushed and took really bad shots. We should have worked as a team and moved the ball around more.”
And as Pierce, joined by Lee as Hunt’s only seniors, pointed out: “We didn’t give up at the end.”
Parks, despite Thursday night’s outcome, remains hopeful that Hunt will be seeded as high as No. 6 among East qualifiers in next week’s playoffs.
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Lee 6, Griffith 7, Cox, Tucker 2, Pierce 6, Kent, Spells, Smith 7, Sutton 6, Hunter.