Panthers back at it with win over Columbia

Published 11:37 pm Thursday, January 11, 2018

PINETOWN — Northside, like most others in eastern North Carolina, was eager to get back on the court. Thursday marked the first time the Panthers hit the hardwood in eight days. They hadn’t played nor practiced since their Jan. 2 win over Tarboro.

The rust was evident against Columbia. The visiting Wildcats jumped out to a 6-0 lead and held their own for most of the first half. Northside’s defense left much to be desired, and many shots that usually fall didn’t.

“We looked way sluggish. I wanted us to come out with more intensity,” Northside coach Mike Proctor said. “We tried a new defense. It didn’t work out too good. I tried to rotate a lot of guys in. … We just didn’t play well, but we got us a win.”

The Panthers found their rhythm — their most dangerous weapon — in the second half. Johnathan Clark took over coming out of the intermission, helping his side to an 84-73 win. Northside led by 21 late in the fourth, but phoned it in on defense down the stretch.

More important than the win was working through some of the kinks Proctor expected after the lengthy layoff. The non-conference tune up was key as Northside prepares to host 1-A Coastal Plains Conference Pamlico County on Friday.

“That was good,” Proctor said. “We can’t control the weather. It was good to get this in before we play Pamlico because they’re the best team in the league.”

After falling behind at the start, Northside got on the board when Bryson Radcliffe hauled in a rebound and put it back up. Rashod Smith and Johnathan Clark combined to give the Panthers their first lead with 4:15 left.

Columbia pulled ahead again, but a short jumper by Dawson Jackson late in the first gave Northside a lead it wouldn’t surrender. The Wildcats still kept it close. The Panthers’ halftime lead would have been single digits if not for one of Braeden Cooper’s patented corner 3-pointers in the last second of the first half.

Regrouped and refocused, Northside ran away with the game in the third. Smith sparked it with an early 3. Clark followed with a single-handed surge, which was capped off when he faked a pass to Smith in the corner and went to the basket in transition.

“Johnathan is really leading this team. He’s turned around a lot from last year,” Proctor said. “He’s always got this smile on his face. He talks. He’s the leader of this team. Rashod is probably the best player. Braeden is making shots. It’s just a team effort.”

Clark knocked down a 3 early in the fourth. He had 13 points in the final period alone. Northside led by as many as 21 points, allowing it to hang onto the win despite Columbia finishing on a 10-0 run.