Local teams gear up for conference slate

Published 3:51 pm Tuesday, January 6, 2015

DAVID CUCCHIARA | DAILY NEWS NEXT STEP: Northside center Edrice Adebayo squared off with Terra Ceia power forward Tyler Hendrix in the Northside Christmas Tournament, but now both teams will look to carry their winning ways into 2015, as both are contenders for conference championships.

NEXT STEP: Northside center Edrice Adebayo squared off with Terra Ceia power forward Tyler Hendrix in the Northside Christmas Tournament, but now both teams will look to carry their winning ways into 2015, as both are contenders for conference championships.

The time for altering starting lineups, toying with different defenses and adjusting offensive schemes is over. Washington, Northside and Southside enter the conference slate this week, while Terra Ceia and Pungo are preparing to enter the heart of Tarheel Independent Conference play.

Coming off a disappointing 1-9, basement finish in the Eastern Plains Conference last year, Washington returned eight seniors this season, although a good portion was limited early due to the football team’s deep playoff run. After getting his full team back in its entirety on Dec. 16, head coach Steven Flowers has scrambled to find a productive starting lineup and through the first seven games, the team has yet to find cohesion, let alone an identity.

Even against the county’s top team, Northside, the Pam Pack has remained competitive, staying in every game, but the same late-game struggles that plagued them last season seem to have returned. Above all else, this is a team that will live and die by its backcourt, as much of offensive output will fall on John Whitley, Sayvon Brooks and Azim Anthony moving forward. With the loss of Stevie Green to graduation, the Pam Pack needs a balanced offensive approach and stringent defensive play to avoid sinking fast in a weaker Eastern Plains Conference.

“We feel like we can beat anyone this year,” Southside head coach Sean White said after a win over Riverside last month.

It’s a bold statement, but one that has been backed by unrivaled consistency. The Seahawks enter Coastal Plains Conference play with a 6-2 record, an impressive mark considering the loss of team’s second-leading scorer Isaiah Moore, who transferred to Wake Christian Academy prior to the season.

As expected, senior Donshae Miller has become more of a facilitator than scorer, a role that has opened the door for Rashaun Moore to be the primary producer on offense. Averaging 22.8 points per game, Moore has etched his name alongside Northside’s Edrice Adebayo and East Carteret’s Jacque Brown as one of the Coastal Plains Conference’s top talents.

White is sticking to the same system he’s been running for years, but the integration of more screens and pick-and-rolls into the offense seems to be paying dividends.

While Southside is off to a great start, Northside also seems to have improved. After posting a 7-0 record to open the season, Adebayo and the Panthers began conference play on Monday against a heated rival, East Carteret, the reigning 1-A state runner-up. In a battle between two four-guard sets, a big second half gave the Mariners an 84-61 victory, despite a competitive halftime score.

Adebayo is clearly the catalyst in whether this team wins or loses, but other players like Pungo transfer Dalton Etheridge and senior Reggie Slade have settled into their roles nicely.

And without Etheridge, Pungo has been unable to get much going on offense, posting a 3-6 record thus far. Will Respess and Landon Woolard have had their big nights, but the Raiders are still seeking a much-needed spark in the frontcourt.

While the Raiders are in the midst of a rebuilding phase, Terra Ceia has certainly been the surprise of the county this season. The newfound high-tempo offense, along with the 3 inches power forward Tyler Hendrix added this offseason, has led to increased efficiency. The lights out shooting from Quentin Van Essendelft and Austin Roscoe has been the difference.



It’s going to be a rocky, uphill climb for Washington in the EPC, but hardly an impossible one. Last season, five teams finished with less than 10 losses, including a talented Farmville Central team that won the table with a 9-1-conference record.

The number of returning starters for North Pitt has them off to a 10-4 start, while the Jaguars look equally as impressive even without Jake Ashorn, last season’s EPC Player of the Year. But a playoff berth may not be entirely out of reach for the Pam Pack, considering Southwest Edgecombe, Beddingfield and North Johnston are off to sub-.500 starts.

A top finish is likely out of the question for Washington, but if the guards continue to play well and the backcourt can significantly increase its rebounding numbers, a top-three finish is not out of reach.


Last year, the CPC was one of the most top-heavy Class 1-A tables in North Carolina, producing the state runner-up and two teams with 19-plus wins (Northside and Pamlico County). With Southside avoiding the injuries that plagued them early in 2013, the Seahawks, Hurricanes, Panthers and Mariners, the current favorite, should spend most of the season battling for the top spot.

East Carteret returns four starters — Jacque Brown, Ty Simmons, Trevor Willis and Sam Johnson. So far, all four are averaging double figures, while Brown leads the team, averaging 23.2 points and 8.4 assists per game.

Bear Grass, Lejeune and Jones Senior will likely finish in the bottom half, while the Mariners are the clear-cut favorite to finish first. However, Southside and Northside are on the rise and second place, possibly even first, is in reach.



Last season, Hobgood, Terra Ceia and Pungo all had respectable campaigns. Pungo won the TIC, Terra Ceia was crowed TIC Tournament champion and Hobgood finished second and produced the TIC Player of the Year, Gary Mullins.

With the loss of Cole Austin Woolard, Marcus Williams and Etheridge, a young Raiders team has been forced to rebuild. For Hobgood, the loss of Mullins’ supporting cast has resulting in a 7-7 start, despite 26.8 points per game from Mullins. Hobgood’s mediocrity has opened the door for a red hot Terra Ceia team to not only repeat as tournament champions, but also win the regular season slate.

The Knights defeated Hobgood in the conference opener in November, routed Albemarle last month and are favored to knock off Pungo on Tuesday. The team is faster, more organized and averaging close to seven more points per game than last season. Even with such a young team, anything less than a conference championship would be a disappointment for the Knights.