Stepping Up: Northside challenges Riverside for share atop CPC

Published 7:55 pm Thursday, January 18, 2018

For the second time this week, Beaufort County will be home to a first-place conference basketball game. Washington’s girls hosted Kinston, but couldn’t lay claim to the top spot in the 2-A Eastern Carolina Conference as the Lady Vikings downed them, 74-44.

Riverside stands atop the 1-A Coastal Plains Conference at 4-0. The Knights and Panthers last met in Williamston on Dec. 8. Riverside overcame a 37-29 halftime deficit to win, 65-63. Ashaaun Belcher, Jadakis Bonds, Kiam Bethea and Ben Beach all scored in double figures.

The game didn’t come and go without its drama. Riverside’s scoreboard stopped working about midway through the game. Northside was likely taken out of its element without being able to see the clock, which affects its ability to manage the game.

The Knights will be wrapping up a six-game road swing. Their most recent outings have seen them lose consecutive one-possession, overtime games to North Pitt and Farmville Central. Riverside’s ability to threaten strong 2-A programs speaks volumes of the kind of team it has put together this season.

Northside is in the midst of a home stand that dates back to its holiday tournament. It has won its last three games, which includes a signature victory over another top CPC team in Pamlico County. Rashod Smith and Bryson Radcliffe each had an explosive evening in the 78-74 thriller.

But that was a week ago. Northside has played just that game in the last week. Riverside has played thrice, and with the two close losses to non-conference foes, is likely hungry for a win.

Northside’s biggest challenge is going to be hitting the ground running come 7:30 p.m. on Friday. It looked sluggish for much of its Jan. 11 win over Columbia, which came after a nine-day layoff. The Panthers can’t afford that against a Knights team that should be in its groove come tipoff.

This game will essentially decide whether or not the Panthers can compete for a regular-season league title. A win will leave them, Riverside and Pamlico County all with one CPC loss and tied for first place. Riverside and Pamlico County aren’t slated to begin their two-game series until Jan. 27. That set between the Knights and Hurricanes will likely eliminate one of them from title contention.

If Northside doesn’t win, it will need to count on either Riverside or Pamlico County — or both — to slip up against one of the teams in the middle of the conference.

The home atmosphere proved favorable for Northside last week. Another packed-out crowd will do nothing but help the Panthers as they come up on a crossroads of their season.