Northside falls in regional final, Mariners punch ticket back to championship

Published 7:03 pm Saturday, March 7, 2015

DAVID CUCCHIARA | DAILY NEWS CONTAINED: Northside’s Edrice Adebayo scored a playoff-low 20 points and 20 rebounds in a 75-60 loss to East Carteret.

CONTAINED: Northside’s Edrice Adebayo scored a playoff-low 20 points and 20 rebounds in a 75-60 loss to East Carteret.

FAYETTEVILLE — Two Coastal Plains Conference rivals met for the third time this year at the Crown Arena Saturday night with a spot in the NCHSAA 1-A state championship on the line. Despite a heroic fourth-quarter push by Edrice “Bam” Adebayo and the Northside guards, it was top-seeded East Carteret celebrating a 75-60 victory when the final buzzer sounded, the Mariners earning their second-consecutive eastern regional title.

“We’ve been resilient all year, withstood some storms, but we let them get a little too far ahead of us to finish the comeback,” Northside head coach Mike Proctor said after the game. “It was a great effort. The kids don’t have any quit and they haven’t had any quit all year.”

The win for East Carteret improves its record to 27-2 (12-0 CPC) and slates a rematch with the defending state champions, No. 7-seeded Winston-Salem Prep, next Saturday at the Carmichael Arena in Chapel Hill.

After two double-digit losses to the Coastal Plains Conference champions during the regular season, Northside found itself in a familiar place to begin the second half — down 16 points following a flawless 34-point second quarter from guards Jacque Brown, Trevor Willis and Sam Johnson, a trio that has carried the Mariners trigger-happy offense comfortably through the playoffs.

Defensively, the East Carteret press and triple team held Adebayo to his lowest point total in 15 games, just 20 points to go along with a game-high 20 rebounds, five assists and five blocks. The 6-foot-9 Northside centerpiece had nearly every one of his 14 shots contested and, defensively, was unable to keep pace with the Mariners’ seemingly endless arsenal of sharpshooters.

“We already know what they’re going to do, so it makes it a little easier for us. But it was a big test, Bam-Bam is a heck of a player,” said Brown, who finished with a game-high 29 points and six assists.”

The Panthers, needing its backcourt to produce to supplement Adebayo’s production in the paint, came out strong in the first quarter, shooting a high percentage from the field and hitting open shots from the perimeter. Nine of Ikeem Greene’s 17 points came in the first eight minutes, as the 5-8, 210-pound junior more than kept pace with the Mariners’ shooters.

Known for sudden offensive explosions, East Carteret erupted in the second quarter, outscoring Northside 34-13 by converging on Adebayo and swinging the ball around the perimeter. By half time, the Mariners led, 50-34, and Brown had already collected 20 points.

“We were going to try to get out on the shooters a little bit more and not let them run into Bam,” Proctor said. “They made some good shots and we just tried to pound the ball inside, contain their outside shots.”

Finally, the hot hands of the defending state runner-up hit a period of dormancy, Brown and Willis being held to a combined four third-quarter points. Adebayo, however, scored just three, as the Mariners’ lock-tight defense remained poised down the stretch.

East Carteret opened the fourth quarter on a run and in any other setting, that may have sealed the game, but Northside had other ideas. While Brown, Johnson, Willis and Ty Simmons began to miss shots and turn the ball over, Adebayo caught fire, finding seams in the defense and throwing down a pair of monster jams. With about three minutes remaining, a bucket from Greene cut the Mariner lead to five — the closest margin since the second quarter.

But in the end, East Carteret strung together a massive run and put the game out of reach and championship dreams alive.

On top of Brown’s performance, Willis and Johnson finished with 18 apiece, while Northside senior Reggie Slade notched 13 points and five boards in his final game for the Panthers.

Northside closes the season 21-5 (8-4 CPC), but will return three of the team’s four starters next year. With the Mariners losing a handful of contributors, Proctor is hopeful for 2016.

“I feel good. We have Bam, Ikeem, Jabari coming back and our jayvee had a good season, but (East Carteret) has some guys coming back. Willis is a junior and they have a few guys that can shoot on the bench, but I’m always looking forward to the challenge,” he said.