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While the Hunt High varsity boys basketball team could not improve its 3-A Big East Conference tournament seeding during Friday’s rescheduled Senior Night game with regular-season champion Northern Nash, a victory over the Knights stood to carry with it a boost of confidence for the Warriors entering the start of the postseason.
Despite falling behind by double digits in the second half and eight in the fourth quarter, Hunt applied game pressure at the end and had a fleeting opportunity to force overtime at the close of regulation.
But the Warriors, attempting to get one more possession in the final seconds by throwing the ball off of Northern Nash’s Davontae Wiggins, couldn’t do it. Wiggins snared the attempted deflection under his own basket and laid it in, giving the Knights a five-point lead in their eventual 58-55 victory.
Hunt, observing Senior Night for the trio of Malcolm Coley, Zion May and Chris Bates, finished the regular season at 13-8 overall and 5-5 in the Big East, good enough for fourth. Northern Nash won for the 22nd time in 23 games and finished the Big East schedule unbeaten at 10-0, its third straight year finishing the conference’s regular season without a loss.
The Warriors face No. 5 Rocky Mount in this week’s opening round of the Big East tournament, which will be contested at Rocky Mount High in its entirety. Northern Nash and Southern Nash will enjoy quarterfinal round byes, while Fike faces Franklinton and Hunt opposes the Gryphons. Southern Nash earned the No. 2 seed over Fike on the basis of its head-to-head sweep against Hunt.
Trailing by six in the fourth quarter, Hunt closed to within 55-51 on a layup by freshman Davon Jones.
Northern Nash attempted to go into its stall offense, but Hunt junior ShaKei Hines came up with a steal and was fouled, being put into the one-and-one with 42.7 seconds showing. Hines made both, pulling Hunt within a single possession at 55-53 as 42.7 seconds remained.
Needing to give three fouls before placing the Knights in the one-and-one, Hunt gave two as attempts to trap and steal backfired, leaving just 17.9 seconds on the clock. Northern Nash nearly had a layup off the inbounds to Sam Page, but he was fouled and put on the line for the one-and-one opportunity.
With 16.1 seconds to play, Page made the first, but missed the second. The rebound temporarily nestled in the hands of Hunt junior Shaq Wade, who attempted to throw it off Wiggins for one more possession. However, Wiggins kept the ball instead and stuck it in for a two-possession lead. Wade, who led all scorers with 17 points, sprinted down the floor and laid it in for the final margin.
The Warriors stood up to the task early, getting the ball inside to Jones and May for baskets in the paint. Their efforts inside and on the offensive backboards enabled Hunt to lead 19-15 after the first quarter, and Wade’s buzzer-beater sent the Warriors into halftime with a four-point edge at 28-24.
In the third quarter, Northern Nash began to take away Hunt’s inside game and forced the Warriors into becoming more of a jump-shooting unit. The Knights realized their largest lead of 10 points on Tarod Brown’s layup to go up 42-32, and Hunt was left to chop away at a 47-39 margin entering the fourth.
But despite a quality effort that never wavered, the Warriors never got a chance to force overtime.