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She helped her Hunt High varsity girls basketball team win both the regular-season and tournament championships in the 3-A Big East Conference this season.
His motor and athleticism for the Southern Nash varsity boys basketball team proved to be an ongoing problem all season for opposing Big East coaches.
Hunt junior Bria Griffith and Southern Nash senior Darius Edmundson were named the Big East girls and boys players of the year by league coaches.
“I’m surprised that my hard work paid off!” Griffith said in a telephone interview Wednesday afternoon.
Edmundson echoed that sentiment in a telephone interview.
“I was little surprised, to be honest,” he said.
Neither of them should have been as both Griffith and Edmundson were at or near the top in nearly every statistical category in the conference, per MaxPreps.com.
Griffith led the Big East in scoring with 15.8 points per game and was second in field-goal percentage at .500. Her 6.3 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 2.2 steals ranked among the leaders.
Edmundson averaged 15.9 points, second only to Northern Nash’s Joseph Cherry-Blue (16.2) and and Fike’s Elijahwon Cooper (16.0), per Maxpreps.com, and was third in rebounding with 8.7 per game. Edmundson totaled 11 double-doubles, second only to Hunt’s Zion May, and had 2.1 steals per game.
Edmundson established himself as a concern for opposing Big East coaches this winter, so it should come as little surprise they named him player of the year.
“I think all of them recognize how hard he plays,” Firebirds head coach Robbie Kennedy said. “He just played so much harder than anybody else on the court. I challenged our guys all the time, you know, ‘You guys have to play as hard as Darius plays.’”
Edmundson helped Southern Nash tie for second place with Fike in the Big East with a 6-4 mark behind Northern Nash, which won its third straight Big East title in unbeaten fashion. The Knights, who finished 27-2 and reached the NCHSAA 3-A East Region semifinals, boasted a wealth of talent in their lineup and Edmundson admitted that he thought the player of the year would go to a Northern Nash player.
“I didn’t think I was going to win it because I know a lot of people expected one of the Northern boys to to win it,” he said. “But it’s an honor to win it.”
Edmundson was joined on the all-conference team by his fellow senior teammate Artavius Allen along with Northern Nash’s Samuel Page, Davontae Wiggins and Darquez Flowers; Fike’s Elijahwon Cooper and Moses Parker; Hunt’s Zion May, Rocky Mount’s Victor Ward Jr. and Franklinton’s Will Toman. Cooper, Flowers and Wiggins were repeat selections. Northern Nash’s Henry Drake was saluted as coach of the year.
Edmundson, who played varsity all four years at Southern Nash, said this was a tough season for the Firebirds, despite how it turned out. Southern Nash, playing as the No. 25 seed in the NCHSAA 3-A East Region, upset No. 8 West Carteret in the first round before ousting No. 24 Hunt, also a first-round upset winner, on the Warriors’ floor in the second round. Playing in the third round for the first time since 2016, the Firebirds lost at top-seeded Hillside in Durham to finish 16-10.
“It was very a rocky season because we had a lot of new guys,” Edmundson said. He and Allen were the only two players left out of the five juniors on the team last season.
“Me and Artavius just kept the team motivated, working hard an each and every day,” Edmundson said.
“Our season overall, I felt like we did great. I think we shocked everybody. I don’t think anybody expected us to be where we were.”
But Edmundson’s hard work, athleticism and consistency made the Firebirds a tough opponent.
“He didn’t have a game where he just scored three points,” Kennedy said.
“When he played really well, he’d score more than 20 but when he played ‘bad,’ he’d score about 12 or 13.”
His athleticism was a bonus, Kennedy said.
“He guarded the other teams’ best athlete and he was our best athlete and we ran a lot of stuff for him to try to get him into open space because, man-to-man, he’s hard to guard,” the Firebirds coach said.
Honorable mention went to Northern Nash’s Cherry-Blue, Southern Nash’s Chason Royal, Fike’s Jaylen Ward, Hunt freshman Davon Jones, Rocky Mount’s Tybiaus Harrison and Franklinton’s Sadiq Spencer.
Griffith was part of Hunt’s “Big Three” that included senior Tatiana Smith and junior Imani Sutton, both of whom were named to the all-conference team. The trio was responsible for more than 76 percent of the Lady Warriors’ scoring and 42 percent of their rebounding.
“We’ve been playing together for so long that we know how to feed off each other’s energy and we know how each other thinks, so just bouncing off each other’s energy, one of us is going to be on, no matter what,” Griffith said.
But Griffith was the one that was on, more often than not.
She was the Lady Warriors’ leader in scoring, rebounding, assists, steals and field-goal percentage.
Head coach Tiffany Parks pointed to Griffith’s performance throughout the season as what set her apart.
“I think that’s why her average was so much higher than theirs, because of the consistency,” Parks said.
Griffith scored in doubles figures in 19 of the 24 games she played and had nine points twice. She scored more than 20 eight times.
That was a upgrade from a solid sophomore season when she averaged 9.7 points per game and landed on the All-Big East team.
She credited her teammates for helping her improve.
“From the people that are around me, just supporting me and having confidence in me that the true talent that I am and that I can lead the team to bigger and better things,” said Griffith, the second straight Lady Warrior to be named Big East Player of the Year, joining Kayla Kent from last year.
Sutton averaged 13.8 points and 5.0 rebounds while Smith scored 10.8 points per game.
The rest of the all-conference team was Mya Pittman and Alexis Moore from runner-up Rocky Mount; Franklinton’s Miracle Cornell and Katherine Wilkins; Fike’s Ashleigh Sage and Jah’Asia Pernell; Northern Nash’s Kylar Wiggins and Southern Nash’s Rayna Bailey.
Besides Griffith, repeat selections are Pittman and Cornell.
Honorable mention was accorded to Hunt’s Shaniah Spells, Rocky Mount’s Jada Morris, Franklinton’s Shea Seward, Fike’s Brikayla Whitaker, Northern Nash’s Kylise Clark and Southern Nash’s Tristian Foster.
Parks was saluted as the conference coach of the year after leading the Lady Warriors to a school-record 22 victories and to the third round of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association playoffs for just the second time in program history.