Panthers plant their flag atop CPC

Published 11:29 pm Friday, January 19, 2018

PINETOWN — With the exception of the last few minutes of the second quarter and the early moments of the third, Northside was in the driver’s seat throughout its 77-69 win over Riverside on Friday. It marked the Knights’ first loss in the 1-A Coastal Plains Conference, giving the Panthers a claim of first place in the league.

Rashod Smith lets loose one of his four makes from 3-point range.

Northside is one of three teams — along with Riverside and Pamlico County — with one loss in the conference. The Panthers are now in control of their own destiny. They’re finished with the Knights. Still looming are trips to see the Hurricanes and a tough environment at Tarboro.

But Pamlico County and Riverside have yet to begin their two-game set. It’s up to the Panthers to take care of business down the stretch to make sure they keep their flag planted firmly atop the CPC.

“It looks good. We beat Pamlico and now we beat Riverside, and we’ve beat Tarboro,” head coach Mike Proctor said. “Those are the better teams in our league. We’ve beat each of them once, which is good. We’ve just got to keep playing our game.”

Rashod Smith was hot out of the gate. He started the game 3-of-4 from long range as. He knocked down two 3-pointers from the wings sandwiched between another off of an inbound play.

He had four of Northside’s eight makes from downtown. Riverside sought to lockdown sharpshooting senior Braeden Cooper. Three of his four treys came in the second half.

“I would have liked to get Braeden a few more shots early, but he got a bunch of shots at their place,” Proctor said. “They didn’t want him taking shots. That gave us some lanes to penetrate, I think, in the second half.”

Northside led by as many as 15 in the second quarter. The Knights took advantage of the Panthers’ foul trouble to climb back into the game when it looked like they were losing control. They finished the first half with 14 unanswered points to pull within one, 32-31.

“We were letting them penetrate too much, and they got it into one of their bigs in the high post,” Proctor said. “Our bigs weren’t rotating over. … We tried to address that at halftime and get them to understand what we were trying to do. I think we played better in the second half.”

Ben Beach’s quick layup to begin the third gave Riverside its first lead, 33-32. Nakwon Burns then dropped a trey for the team’s first bucket from behind the arc.

The Panthers responded with a run of their own. Even without Johnathan Clark on the floor, Smith was able to spearhead a 9-0 rally. It erased a six-point deficit and gave Northside a lead it wouldn’t surrender.

Back-to-back 3s from Cooper created the separation the Panthers hadn’t had since midway through the second. Riverside never came closer than six points.