Panthers seek some improvements down the stretch

Published 11:16 pm Thursday, January 25, 2018

PINETOWN — It’s crunch time for a Northside team that hopes for a lengthy playoff run.

After Friday’s game against South Creek, the Panthers have just six games left in the 1-A Coastal Plains Conference. Still left are a trip to Tarboro and home-and-home series with Jones Senior and Beaufort County rival Southside. They’ll finish the campaign when they host Pamlico County on Feb. 9.

Northside has to take care of business in this home stretch. The finale against Pamlico County could very well determine the league’s regular-season champion. That will depend on how its two-game set with Riverside shakes out. The frontend of that series will begin with Pamlico County traveling to Riverside on Saturday.

“It’ll be pretty tough,” Proctor said. “Tarboro, Riverside, us and Pamlico are probably the top teams, but you can never count anyone out. Anyone can come in and have a good game.”

There are some developments that Proctor would like to see as Northside gears up for the postseason. The Panthers have thrived on their guard play. Sophomore Rashod Smith is one of the most sensational players in eastern North Carolina. He and seniors Braeden Cooper and Jonathan Clark have combined to makeup a fast guard corps with plenty of sharpshooting firepower.

The objective now is to round things out at the forward position.

“I’m hoping we can keep shooting like we’re shooting. We’re shooting it well,” Proctor said. “I’m hoping the bigs get a little more aggressive like Bryson (Radcliffe) did (Thursday). We’re going to need some more interior play against some of the teams we’ve got coming up. Bryson played really well inside (Thursday), and Parker (Boyd) played well.”

Northside took a step in that direction Thursday. It returned from its break for end-of-semester exams when it hosted non-conference foe Mattamuskeet. The Panthers, en route to an 80-47 win, scored the first 13 points of the game. Radcliffe had three buckets in that run, and Boyd did well to get to the free-throw line.

Radcliffe isn’t shy when it comes to contributing offensively. He averaged a shade over 10 points per game as a sophomore for a Panthers team that was well south of .500. He scored nearly a dozen per game last year as a junior.

Radcliffe has floated right around that 12-point average this season as Northside has relied more on Clark, Smith and Cooper. Proctor is confident that Radcliffe can contribute because he’s seen it for the last few years.

“We need those guys to pick it up a little bit, which I think they will,” Proctor said. “Bryson likes to score, so he’ll find offensive rebounds. He’s sneaky inside. He gets his shot off. He rebounds well off his misses. We’re not really trying to force it inside. We’re outside-in.”

Boyd has had some of his best performances in recent outings. He’s shown consistent growth each time out since the beginning of the New Year. Fellow senior forwards Shikeem Carter and Dawson Jackson have also proven themselves key reserve players.

Northside begins back-to-back road games when it travels to Southside on Monday. The Panthers will then travel to Tarboro on Tuesday.