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Southern Nash High junior Kaisean Rambert shot a 3-pointer toward the close of the third quarter during Friday’s nonconference tilt with West Johnston.
While the ball caught much of the rim, there was little chance of it bouncing harmlessly away on this night. After a brief kabuki dance with the rim and backboard, the ball went through the net, prompting Rambert to look toward his bench and motion for more energy.
It was one of a season-high 13 3-pointers for the Firebirds, who used the long ball to pull away for a comfortable 68-48 victory. The shot from Rambert gave the Firebirds their largest lead of 25 points.
Did Southern Nash head coach Robbie Kennedy see it coming? After two games where the 3-A Big East Conference Firebirds (7-4) were held without a basket from beyond the arc, not a chance.
“We made 13 out of 27,” Kennedy marveled. “That’s high school basketball, man. You don’t know from night to night who’s going to shoot well and who’s not going to shoot well. I just hope we can take some of that into conference next week.”
Junior A.J. Jones started the parade off the bench for Southern Nash, finishing with a game-high 15 points. Jones, who was no stranger to shooting struggles over the last two games, knocked down five of Southern’s 13 treys, including three in the opening quarter to stake the Firebirds to a 22-14 lead after one quarter.
“I just told him yesterday at practice, ‘If you’re open, catch it and shoot it,’” Kennedy said. “I’f you don’t, you’re coming out.’ Because a lot of the time, he hesitates. He was open tonight, and he shot the ball on contact.”
Jones’ proficiency spread throughout the roster, with Rambert (two), senior Artavius Allen (two), junior Michael Parker (two), senior Armando Dellavalle and sophomore Chason Royal getting in on the act. At the outset of the fourth quarter, Southern Nash’s 12 3-pointers were enough to outscore West Johnston, 36-35, before the final score materialized.
West Johnston, which stuck to a seven-player rotation, was gradually worn down by the Firebirds, who deployed all 12 players on their roster by the start of the second quarter.
The Firebirds were the beneficiary of 22 turnovers from West Johnston and led 39-27 at the half. Via six treys in the third quarter from five different players, the Southern lead blossomed to 59-34 entering the fourth period.
Allen and Dellavalle each finished with nine points for Southern Nash, with Rambert and senior Darius Edmundson adding eight each. Southern Nash, which opened Big East play at Fike on Tuesday, enjoyed a 28-22 advantage on the backboards.
Brandon Sanders and Kyree Mattox had 13 and 11 points for West Johnston, respectively.
“We beat them twice last year and they beat us twice the year before,” Kennedy said of Fike’s Golden Demons. “But every other year, usually, we’ve split or it’s been a one-possession ballgame.”