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ROCKY MOUNT — When Dwight Taylor returned to the helm of the Hunt High varsity boys basketball program this season, he wasn’t about to compromise his principles on the defensive end of the floor. Hunt was once again reminded of that at halftime of Monday’s 3-A Big East Conference quarterfinal against Rocky Mount, despite carrying a slim 41-39 lead into the break.
“I had to chew them out at halftime,” Taylor said. “I felt the defense wasn’t up to par, but the defense definitely stepped up in the second half.”
Indeed it did.
With the aid of some timely steals and a 3-pointer from junior TiQuez Taylor with one minute remaining, the Warriors held the Gryphons to 13 fourth-quarter poins and erased a five-point deficit in the fourth en route to a 77-70 victory.
Hunt, the No. 4 seed, improved to 14-8 and will face top-seeded Northern Nash on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. at Rocky Mount Event Center. Rocky Mount, the No. 5 seed, slipped to 13-10 and must hope for an at-large entry into the North Carolina High School Athletic Association playoffs.
In the other quarterfinal game, which was played at RMEC, No. 3 Fike moved into Wednesday’s semifinal with a 66-63 win over No. 6.Franklinton. That sends the Golden Demons into a 7:30 Wednesday game with No. 2 Southern Nash at Rocky Mount High, where the winner will be considered the No. 2 representative from the Big East for purposes of NCHSAA playoff seeding. Fike and Southern Nash split their regular-season meetings.
For Hunt, freshman TyChaun Clay led Hunt with 20 points, with junior Shaq Wade adding 15. Zion May, one of three Hunt seniors, had 14.
“He really played great,” Taylor said of Clay. “He controlled the pace of the game and had several steals.”
Hunt trailed 57-54 entering the fourth quarter before trailing by five later. Taylor’s 3-pointer put Hunt up by four at the one-minute mark, and the Warriors salted it away from the foul line.
Victor Ward’s 25 points led Rocky Mount.
Hunt’s reward is a semifinal game with Northern Nash (22-1) — a team that Hunt extended into the closing seconds Friday night before falling 58-55.
“The kids know we made some crucial mistakes,” Taylor said of the last meeting with Northern Nash. “We just didn’t take advantage. We’re going to have to play a lot better if we expect to win.”
ROCKY MOUNT (70)
Gray 2, Miller 7, Knight 9, Parker 3, Cole, Harrison, Hines-Williams, Ward 25, Silver 17, Dupree 7.
Wade 15, Coley 6, Taylor 4, Hines 7, Clay 20, Jones 9, May 14, Carmon 2
Score by quarters:
Rocky Mount 21 18 18 13 — 70
Hunt 24 17 13 23 — 77