No. 14 Northside defeats No. 2 Voyager, meets CPC foe in regional championship

Published 7:12 pm Friday, March 6, 2015

DAVID CUCCHIARA | DAILY NEWS BATTLE OF THE BIGS: Northside’s Edrice Adebayo and Voyager’s Jay Huff battled it out early, but foul trouble limited Huff in the second half and carried the Panthers to a four-point win in the sectional final.

BATTLE OF THE BIGS: Northside’s Edrice Adebayo and Voyager’s Jay Huff battled it out early, but foul trouble limited Huff in the second half and carried the Panthers to a four-point win in the sectional final.

FAYETTEVILLE — In a battle between two of North Carolina’s top high school big men, it was Edrice “Bam” Adebayo and No. 14-seeded Northside that rose to the occasion over No. 2-seeded Voyager Academy Friday evening at Crown Arena in the NCHSAA 1-A sectional finals — a 66-62 overtime win that continues what should now be considered a run of Cinderella-like proportions.

When asked about the low seed after the overtime victory, Proctor simply laughed it off, attributing it to a third-place finish in what was a grueling conference slate for Beaufort County’s top basketball team.

“I think our No. 14 seed was a little misleading,” he said. “I believe our conference is the toughest 1-A conference in the state. We have East Carteret, Pamlico and Southside. I think our No. 3 seed in the conference it misleading but hey, it’s good enough for us to get here. I don’t care what seed we are.”

For the first time this season, Adebayo matched up against a player whose height exceeded his own — junior Jay Huff, a 6-foot-10, four-star power forward with the ability to block shots, hit from range and drive the lane. He did a little bit of everything against the Panthers’ defense in the first half, but tasked with guarding the state’s top talent, soon found himself in early foul trouble.

Despite a strong start, Huff was limited to a season-low five points and was held scoreless in the second half, restricted after picking up two quick fouls in the third quarter. As a result, much of the burden fell into the hands of senior Christopher Sause, who entered averaging a little more than 15 points per game. Sause, at 6-foot-5, challenged Adebayo in the paint and came through with some key baskets down the stretch, finishing with a team-high 12 points.

“We were going to put Bam on Huff and switch him off to Sause on the outside a little bit,” Proctor said. “We tried to mix it up so they really wouldn’t know who was staying on the block. We have four guards and Bam. We concentrated on blocking out and we through our zone at them a little bit to get them off base.”

Coming off a 42-point, 26-rebound performance against Riverside in the third round, Adebayo had another big night on the biggest stage of his high school career, dropping a game-high 37 points with 23 rebounds and seven blocks.

But in the first quarter, it was the defending North Central Atlantic Conference champions that came out firing. Sause hit a trio of shots and Diante Parker hit a pair of jumpers for the Vikings, as Voyager jumped out to a 16-9 lead.

“I think we were a little nervous in the first half, but we got more comfortable in the second half,” Proctor said. “Then we started attacking the rim a little bit better and got it into Bam. I think that helped us a lot.”

Adebayo responded with seven points and two blocks in the second quarter, while Ikeem Greene, an instrumental part in Northside’s playoff run, finally began to get into a rhythm. Owning as much as a seven-point advantage at one point, Voyager entered halftime with a narrow 27-24 lead.

Both teams matched each other in the second half, trading jumpers and, even without Huff in the game, defending soundly. Eventually, after being down for some time, Northside obtained its first lead since early in the second quarter with 3:40 remaining in the game.

With under a minute remaining, the Panthers’ six point lead was erased after a Chance Greene three pointer, two missed free throws from Adebayo that would have iced the game at the line and a clutch three from Parker with 1.6 seconds left on the clock.  Unfortunately for the Vikings, Huff picked up his fifth foul in the process.

“When you’re playing a tight game against a good team, there are ups and downs all over the place and I think we handled it pretty well,” Proctor said.

The great ones step up when the game is on the line and in the overtime period, Adebayo’s eight points and five rebounds were the difference, as Voyager’s 19-game win streak and playoff run came to a conclusion.

On top of Adebayo’s standout stat line, Greene finished with 19 points and seven rebounds, while Reggie Slade and Jabari Ashe notched five points apiece.

With the win, Northside improves to 21-4 on the season and will face Coastal Plains Conference champion East Carteret in the eastern regional championship on Saturday, a place in the NCHSAA 1-A state championship up for grabs.