NOT BACKING DOWN: Panthers don’t quit against First Flight

Published 11:27 pm Wednesday, January 20, 2016

MICHAEL PRUNKA | DAILY NEWS FOOLING THE OPPONENT: Bryson Radcliffe fakes a shot before taking on a pair of First Flight defenders. He was an offensive force for a team that runs through its guards.

FOOLING THE OPPONENT: Bryson Radcliffe fakes a shot before taking on a pair of First Flight defenders. He was an offensive force for a team that runs through its guards.

PINETOWN — Northside traveled to First Flight for its first game of the season. Hosting the Nighthawks at the point in the season meant an opportunity to assess how far the Panthers had come so far. While they fell short in the 90-71 loss, the team showed it had plenty of heart by not backing down.

The two teams traded baskets early in the first quarter. Bryson Radcliffe made a layup to put Northside ahead, 10-9. Jack Konstanzer then answered with back-to-back 3-pointers that sparked a 23-2 run for First Flight.

The Panthers didn’t make their first field goal of the second quarter until the 5:34 mark when Atia Shamseldin banked in a layup in transition. They still trailed 32-14, but that basket flipped the switch for Northside’s offense.

“Bryson and Atia are playing really well right now,” Panthers coach Mike Proctor said. “We go through (our guards), but Bryson and Atia are picking it up and starting to score. That’s going to help us a bunch down the road.”

After facing a 20-point deficit, the home side pushed the tempo by continuing to get easy looks in transition. It produced a 24-5 run that left Northside trailing by just one, 37-36, at halftime.

“I think we started trusting each other, making some more passes and getting open looks,” Proctor said. “They were knocking their shots down. … We decided we were going to try and defend a little better. We changed some things up.

“We really wanted to run their guys off the line. We didn’t run (Tyler High) off it too much. He got a lot of looks, but second quarter we picked up the intensity on defense.”

Momentum didn’t favor the Panthers quite as much in the second half. Reese Jones opened the third period by knocking down a trey for First Flight. The Nighthawks made a habit of hitting their perimeter shots whenever Northside got within striking distance.

“We don’t have a lockdown defender on a big winger,” Proctor said. “That was tough. This is a good team and they set a lot of good picks. They got their shooters open. They did a good job of that.”

ON THE RUN: Ikeem Greene sprints down the court. He’s the quarterback of Northside’s offense, so the Panthers struggled when he had to sit in the fourth quarter.

Northside was a bit streaky both on offense and defense. Some of that can be attributed to the lack of a rhythm due to not having practices during exams. However, it’s ultimately up to the players to be more consistent on the floor.

“I think that hurt us a little bit, but we’ve got to keep stopping their runs,” Proctor said. “Sometimes we have some really poor shot selections when they’re starting to run. If they get up six or seven, our shot selection isn’t very good. We’ve got to do a better job with that. I don’t think practice can help that. I think maturity helps that.”

They still didn’t back down, though. Jabari Ashe hit a 3 at the buzzer to pull within 12. Ikeem Greene opened the fourth standing at the arc conducting the offense. When he couldn’t find a play to make, he hoisted up a trey of his own to cut First Flight’s lead to 64-55 early in the final quarter.

Greene wasn’t on the floor much longer. Foul trouble forced him to the bench and Northside’s offense suffered because of it.

“When Ikeem went out, that hurt us a whole lot,” Proctor said. “I think the refs called a real loose game early and then they started trying to clean it up by calling a lot of fouls. That’s tough on a 17 or 18-year-old player to make that adjustment.”

The home standing Panthers hosted Manteo on Thursday. Those two non-conference games gave them a chance to build something heading into Monday’s league match with Bear Grass.