RIVALRY NIGHT: Northside, Southside fight for top-3 conference spot

Published 6:32 pm Thursday, January 14, 2016

MICHAEL PRUNKA | DAILY NEWS SPEEDY ATTACK: Southside’s Pat Coffey blows by a Washington defender. Northside coach Mike Proctor said one of his team’s keys to winning is stopping Southside’s transition offense.

SPEEDY ATTACK: Southside’s Pat Coffey blows by a Washington defender. Northside coach Mike Proctor said one of his team’s keys to winning is stopping Southside’s transition offense.

PINETOWN — The New Year has treated Northside and Southside differently so far. The Seahawks have won three of their four games thus far in 2016, only dropping a 66-60 decision at Washington on Jan. 6. They’ve claimed wins over 1-A Coastal Plains opponents Lejeune and Pamlico County, as well as a non-conference win against Mattamuskeet.

The Panthers faced the challenge of playing their first three games of 2016 on the road. They lost to dominant East Carteret and Jones Senior squads, but recently routed Lejeune for their second conference win of the year.

Northside will hope to string together consecutive wins for the first time this season when it hosts rival Seahawks on Friday. Southside, on the other hand, already has a little streak going that it will hope to keep building on.

Both teams will look to build more than just a simple win streak. This clash provides each club with a chance to gain some footing in the muddled Coastal Plains standings. East Carteret and Jones Senior, both 4-0 in the league, top the rankings. The Panthers and Seahawks are two of three teams in a two-win logjam in the middle. The other is Pamlico County.

“It would put us in good shape going into the second round of the conference,” Seahawks coach Sean White said. “After Northside, the only other team we have is Bear Grass and then we would have played everyone once. … It would set us up pretty nice.”

Northside coach Mike Proctor added, “This is really important for us. … To get us up in the upper half of the conference, we really need a win. It’s going to be tough, but it’s a real important game for both teams.”

Southside’s defensive work during the holiday layoff has been apparent. The Seahawks gave up an average of 68 points through their first five games. They’ve been conceding less than 50 points in their four games in 2016, including holding a sharpshooting Pamlico County team to 54 points.

Their Jan. 8 showdown with Pamlico County also revealed improvements to their offense. The Hurricanes had rarely conceded so much to the opposing offense. Some of the only teams to score 70 points on them were stout non-conference foes like New Bern, Havelock and West Craven.

Northside’s defense has struggled at some points this season. The Panthers give up an average of 65 points a game. Both sides got a chance to scout the other during the Northside Christmas Tournament.

“We want to limit (Northside) getting the ball into their big guys,” White said. “Out of the conference, I think they’ve got the biggest front court. … Keeping the ball out of their hands and making the guards handle it a little more and keeping their guards from penetrating.”

ATTACKING THE PAINT: Northside’s Ikeem Greene penetrates into the paint in the Panthers’ classic meeting with Terra Ceia in the Christmas tournament. Each team will look to stop the other’s guards from driving to the basket.

The Panthers will take a similar approach in guarding Southside’s guards.

“Defensively, I think we’re going to have to control the penetration,” Proctor said. “They do shoot it well. They can penetrate and kick pretty well. I think we’re going to have to keep guys from getting into the paint.”

Northside also had downtime around the holidays. The Panthers committed time to tightening up on the defensive end of the court. However, running into high-power offenses at East Carteret and Jones Senior early on in the conference stretch has exposed weaknesses. The Mariners scored 90 against Northside and Jones Senior had 86 in its win.

Southside has a slight edge by having played on Monday. Neither team has been able to hold practice due to exams.

“That’s why we scheduled that game,” White said. “I think that helped us by noting having that lag from Friday to Friday. Mattamuskeet wasn’t a bad team. They were there with us for most of the game.”

Tip off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.