Northside recovers after slow start to beat Jones Senior

Published 11:31 pm Friday, February 6, 2015

DAVID CUCCHIARA | DAILY NEWS REGROUP: Head coach Mike Proctor talks to his team during a timeout in the second quarter after a slow start.

REGROUP: Head coach Mike Proctor talks to his team during a timeout in the second quarter after a slow start.

PINETOWN — When Edrice “Bam” Adebayo first stepped onto the hardwood at Northside High School as a freshman in 2012, all 6-foot-8, 250-pounds of him, the Panthers were immediately transformed from a middle-of-the-road squad to conference title contenders. One man, altering the narrative of the next four years.

In his first game as a Panther, Adebayo dropped 21 points and led his team to five-point victory over Creswell.

On Monday, it was a similar story, Adebayo’s 42 points the difference in a slim victory over Pamlico County. But in that game, the Northside center, now a junior, eclipsed the 1500-point mark for his career, an impressive feat for a player who has yet to fill out a college application.

Prior to Friday’s matchup against Jones Senior, Adebayo was honored with a souvenir basketball marked with “1,500,” while the players and fans gave him and round of applause.

“Since he’s been here, he’s been a special player and a better person, just a great guy,” said head coach Mike Proctor. “He has a lot of greatness coming to him. He’s a super player, real humble and I love him like a son.”

Northside went on to defeat Jones Senior, 78-59, and the Coastal Plains Conference’s most elite talent, one many opposing players refer to as the “villain,” finished with 31 points, 18 rebounds and five blocks.

But Adebayo’s special night wasn’t all applause and grandeur. Jones Senior, a team that entered with a 3-18 (3-6 CPC) record and nothing to lose, came out on a mission to play spoiler. And the Trojans looked good early.

A balanced offensive team on paper, DeWayne Bryant, Josh Ward and Glen White all had an impact in the first quarter. Keeping it out of the paint and challenging Northside at mid-range, the trio began sinking shots early and opening up a surprising lead. Whether it was overconfidence or simply late-season jitters, the Panthers struggled from the perimeter, knocking down just one shot on multiple attempts, contested and open. Jones Senior led, 18-15, after eight minutes of play and continued to hit shots in the second quarter.

Bryant and White capitalized from behind the arch and expanded the Trojans’ lead to eight at one point, but from there, Jones Senior’s hot hand diminish. Greene Ikeem and Adebayo, the heroes of Monday night’s game, took over. Four blocked shots and a series of steals in the backcourt resulted in a Northside advantage in the final minutes of the half. The Panthers led 36-31 at the break.

“We wanted to move our bodies around a little more instead of just standing in one spot,” Proctor said. “With us moving and the ball moving, I think that opened us up for some cleaner looks in the second half.”

Now working in unison, Adebayo and the Northside guards worked the mid-range and perimeter successfully, passing until somebody had the open look. Soon, Adebayo began hitting jumpers and his supporting cast shot with confidence.

Jones Senior head coach Jason Barker tried to have his forwards converge on Adebayo in the paint, a strategy that paid dividends early on, but not when Panthers’ supporting cast is able to convert.

“We got us a win, but we didn’t play very well,” Proctor said. “We gutted us out another win and we need to start playing better, especially when we meet some of the tougher teams down the road.”

After limiting the Trojans to just seven points, Northside capped the game off with 24 fourth-quarter points.

Ikeem finished with 16 points, while Bryant led his team with 19.

The win keeps the Panthers’ hopes at a high playoff seed alive heading into the final week of the season. Northside will travel to Camp Lejeune on Monday to take on the Devil Pups before hosting rival Southside on Friday.

“I expect it to be a tight game,” Proctor said. “Like coach (Sean) White said last time, it doesn’t matter if one of us is playing poorly or if someone is playing well, it’s going to be a tough, hard-fought game. It’s just going to be a battle.”