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BASKETBALL SEASON PREVIEW

Big season could await Firebirds while Ladybirds put it back together

Posted on November 23, 2021

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Southern Nash’s Jackson Vick drives to the basket during a Jan. 26 game at Hunt. Vick is one of four returning starters for the Firebirds.

Restoration NewsMedia file photo

Southern Nash’s Jackson Vick drives to the basket during a Jan. 26 game at Hunt. Vick is one of four returning starters for the Firebirds.

Southern Nash’s Dahlia Romero (11) takes a shot behind a screen from teammate Tabatha Tomaszewski as head coach Jordan Bass watches from the background during a Feb. 5 game at Fike. Romero is one of three seniors on the Ladybirds roster.

Restoration NewsMedia file photo

Southern Nash’s Dahlia Romero (11) takes a shot behind a screen from teammate Tabatha Tomaszewski as head coach Jordan Bass watches from the background during a Feb. 5 game at Fike. Romero is one of three seniors on the Ladybirds roster.

Southern Nash’s Jackson Vick drives to the basket during a Jan. 26 game at Hunt. Vick is one of four returning starters for the Firebirds.

Restoration NewsMedia file photo

Southern Nash’s Jackson Vick drives to the basket during a Jan. 26 game at Hunt. Vick is one of four returning starters for the Firebirds.

Southern Nash’s Dahlia Romero (11) takes a shot behind a screen from teammate Tabatha Tomaszewski as head coach Jordan Bass watches from the background during a Feb. 5 game at Fike. Romero is one of three seniors on the Ladybirds roster.

Restoration NewsMedia file photo

Southern Nash’s Dahlia Romero (11) takes a shot behind a screen from teammate Tabatha Tomaszewski as head coach Jordan Bass watches from the background during a Feb. 5 game at Fike. Romero is one of three seniors on the Ladybirds roster.

Southern Nash’s Dahlia Romero (11) takes a shot behind a screen from teammate Tabatha Tomaszewski as head coach Jordan Bass watches from the background during a Feb. 5 game at Fike. Romero is one of three seniors on the Ladybirds roster.
Southern Nash’s Jackson Vick drives to the basket during a Jan. 26 game at Hunt. Vick is one of four returning starters for the Firebirds.

paul@wilsontimes.com | 252-265-7808

While the presence of vaunted sophomore Jordan Vick on the roster bodes for a high-profile season for the Southern Nash High varsity boys basketball team, the Ladybirds are looking to pick up the pieces after the COVID-decimated 2021 season.

With numbers scarce on the bench, the Ladybirds suffered through an 0-10 season in the pandemic-shortened last campaign.

“The year before we made the playoffs and won a playoff game,” said head coach Jordan Bass, entering his sixth season. “Then the way COVID hit us and the girls not playing, I still kind of expected to have a pretty decent year last year. So that was kind of upsetting and I feel like we took a step back a little bit. So, you know, I could blame it on COVID I guess.”

The lack of players took its toll.

“We had girls starting some games that really needed to be on the JV in a normal year. That’s kind of how last year was,” he said.

The Firebirds fared much better but were still shorted by the pandemic after going 7-3 and finishing second in the 3-A Big East Conference. But with the North Carolina High School Athletic Association reducing the number of teams in the playoffs, Southern Nash didn’t make the cut.

But with Vick and older brother Jackson, who is headed to N.C. State on a football scholarship, forming a solid nucleus, the Firebirds should attract quite a bit of attention.

“We’ve got four starters back. I think we can be pretty good,” head coach Robbie Kennedy said. “We’ve still got a lot of stuff to work on but we’re expected to be good but one of our question marks is depth.”

For both squads, the new season comes Tuesday at home against former 3-A Big East foe Fike. Southern Nash is now a 3-A member of the 2-A/3-A Big East Conference.

LADYBIRDS LEARNING

One thing that Bass hopes to not have to deal with this season is lack of players. The Ladybirds boast 11 on the roster heading into Tuesday’s opener and that’s with a junior varsity team.

“Yeah, we got some girls,” Bass said. “A lot of our talent is young but we do have  a little bit of experience with a couple girls with Dahlia (Romero) being a senior. She played last year for us and Darielle (Whitley) is a junior and she’s been on varsity since her freshman year.”

Sophomore post Tabatha Tomaszewski and sophomore Maura Kennedy also saw significant playing time last season while senior Lilley Clark is another holdover. Kennedy’s twin sister, Mackenzie, missed all last season with an injury while two players from the 2019-20 team, senior Kaylin Younes and junior Z’Nala Rooks, are back after missing last season as well.

Freshman Precious Richardson, Anastasia Fields and Aubrey Pittman round out the roster with plenty of opportunities to play up.

The Ladybirds only averaged 33.7 points per game last season but only 9.9 of that is coming back with Whitley (4.9) and Romero (3.7) accounting for most of that.

While Southern Nash is in somewhat new terrain in the 2-A/3-A Big East, most of the faces are familiar as former 3-A Big East mates Rocky Mount, Northern Nash and Franklinton came along, too, as well as longtime county rival Nash Central. Bass knows that longtime rival coaches Pam Gainey at Rocky Mount and Grover Battle at Northern Nash will be ready, regardless of who else is.

“When you talk to Grover every year,” Bass said with a chuckle, “he always acts like they’re not going to be any good but they’re usually always at least really solid. They’re always the top half of the conference anyway.

FLYING HIGHER

While Southern Nash has produced its share of high-level college football players in recent years (and another in Jackson Vick this year), the Firebirds have never had a basketball-only player to attract as much attention as Jordan Vick, who has offers from Wake Forest, Florida, Vanderbilt and Illinois, among others.

The not-even-6-foot sophomore, who averaged 18.1 points per game as a freshman, is growing into his body, Kennedy said.

“One thing he’s done a good job of is he’s gotten stronger,” the veteran Firebirds coach said. “He’s in weight-lifting first semester and he’s kind of bought into that. So his body went from, last year he was kind of skinny and frail and he’s still not huge but he’s a lot stronger. So I think that’ll help him get to the basket. He played for a pretty-high level AAU team this summer out of Virginia, so he played against real good competition.”

Jackson Vick (11.2 ppg), who possesses the athleticism to have been an NCAA Division I recruit had that been his sport of focus, and senior T.J. Taybron (10.3 ppg) give the Firebirds an athletic triad that could give opponents fits.

Still, Kennedy wants the younger Vick to push himself into the leadership role that he sometimes defers to his older brother.

“We want him to be really, really aggressive,” Kennedy said of Jordan Vick. “Get to the free-throw line. His shot’s gotten a little bit better, but I expect these things have been from him getting stronger. He’s gotten so much stronger and that will help him a lot, like getting to the basket and drawing some fouls on people.”

Junior forward Landen Baker is other starter back while senior guard Zyshone White rounds out the starting five. Senior Sammy Gandy, along with juniors Tralon Mitchell, Thomas Copeland, Tyler Maner and Brock Alford will be in the rotation for a team that shouldn’t have any problem scoring points. But that’s not Kennedy’s concern right now.

“I’m hoping we’re going to score,” he said. “One of our big things so far, which we’ve only practiced for five days, is making our guys understand that we’ve got to play defense. I think, athletically, we’re really good. I think we can score a little bit. If we could play defense and we’re going to mix it up and do a lot of different kinds of presses and let our athletes be athletes.”

And as Kennedy said he tells his players every day: If you want to play, don’t turn the ball over, play defense and make enough shots.

While the Firebirds are in a few conference, they are still going to have to beat Rocky Mount and Northern Nash just like in the old Big East. Even with the longer conference season in the eight-team 2-A/3-A Big East, Southern Nash is playing an impressive nonconference slate, including its first appearance in the long-running Wilson Christmas tournament, the Farris & Thomas Holiday Tournament at Hunt from Dec. 28-30. Then the Firebirds will play in a couple of high-profile Saturday showcases — against host First Flight at the Good Guys Vs. Cancer Showcase on Jan. 15 and then a week later against Parrott Academy at the Hoop State Network Wilson Prep Showcase.

While Vick is clearly the showpiece for the Firebirds at such events, “it gives some of our other kids a chance to get a looked at for college,” Kennedy said.

The Firebirds coach promises excitement on the court — as long as his guys don’t lose their defensive focus.

“Our biggest thing is just making our kids understand we’ve got to play defense,” he reiterated. “If we’ll play defense and really run, I believe we can be pretty good. We ain’t real big but we are athletic, so.”

2021-22 Rosters

GIRLS

No. Name Pos. Yr.

2 Darielle Whitley G/F Jr.

3 Aubrey Pittman G Fr.

4 Z’Nala Rooks G Jr.

5 Lilley Clark F Sr.

10 Kaylin Younes F Sr.

11 Dahlia Romero G Sr.

12 Anastasia Fields G/F Fr.

14 Ariel Perry G So.

20 Chasity Hopkins F Jr.

22 McKenzie Kennedy F So.

24 Precious Richardson G Fr.

32 Maura Kennedy F So.

33 Tabatha Tomaszewski C So.

BOYS

No. Name Pos. Yr.

1 Jordan Vick G So.  5-11

2 Zyshone White G Sr.

5 Sammy Gandy G Sr.

10 Brock Alford G Jr.

11 T.J. Taybron F/G Sr.

12 Tyler Maner G/F Jr.

14 Andrew Thompson F Jr.

15 Thomas Copeland G Jr.

20 Jackson Vick G/F Sr.

21 Tralon Mitchell F Jr.

22 Khari Caudle F Sr.

23 Landen Baker F Jr.

24 Dusty Hall F/G So.

2021-22 Schedule

DATE OPPONENT

Nov. 23 Fike

Nov. 30 at Fike

Dec. 3 at South Granville

Dec. 7 Nash Central*

Dec. 10 at Roanoke Rapids*

Dec. 17 Louisburg*

Dec. 28 at Hunt#

Dec. 29 girls-TBD/boys-at Hunt#

Dec. 30 TBD#

Jan. 4 Bunn*

Jan. 7 Rocky Mount*

Jan. 11 Oxford Webb

Jan. 14 at Northern Nash*

Jan. 15 at First Flight^

Jan. 18 at Franklinton*

Jan. 21 at Nash Central*

Jan. 22 Parrott Academy&

Jan. 25 Roanoke Rapids*

Jan. 28 at Louisburg*

Feb. 1 at Bunn*

Feb. 4 at Rocky Mount*

Feb. 8 Northern Nash*

Feb. 11 Franklinton*

*2-A/3-A Big East Conference game

# Farris & Thomas Holiday Tournament at Hunt

^ Good Guys Vs. Cancer at First Flight

& Hoop State Network Wilson Prep Showcase

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