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Northside girls fall one game short

The Northside girls most successful season in 26 years is over after an 82-67 loss at Princeton in the East regional final Tuesday night.

The Panthers (11-5) came from 12 points down in the fourth quarter at East Carteret Saturday night, but couldn’t match it against the undefeated (16-0) Bulldogs.

Northside fell behind early, then went ahead 25-21 after a 6-0 run to start the second quarter behind a basket from freshman Mariah Jones and four points from senior Katie Godley.

The Bulldogs answered with a 14-0 spurt to lead by 10 before the Panthers made it a five point game, 40-35 at halftime.

“We had our chances early in the second half, but couldn’t get our shots to fall,” Northside coach Michelle Leathers said. “We got in some foul trouble and lost track of them offensively on the back side of our zone. We kept battling but couldn’t pull it off.”

The Panthers final surge came late in the third quarter when they trailed by 13.

Jones hit a three-pointer, junior Paige Sawyer followed with a layup and a three-ball to make it 52-46.

Princeton turned to its leading scorers, senior Meredith Wooten, who finished with a game-high 30 points and sophomore Anna Taylor, who had 23, to push the lead to 55-48 to start the fourth quarter and 69-54 a few minutes later.

“It’s been 26 years since a Northside girls team has been this far, so I am very proud of our team,” Leathers said. “Princeton is an excellent team and shot the ball very well tonight, so hats off to them.”

Jones led three Panthers in double figures with 28 points. Sawyer scored 16 and Godley added 12 in her last game in a Northside uniform.

“I’ve enjoyed these last four years with her very much,” Leathers said. “We think alike, and she’s done so much to lead this young team. As the only senior, she’s kind of like the big sister. I will miss her leadership and her personality. She’s great to be around.”

Northside returns everyone else from this year’s team with additions from the undefeated Northeastern Elementary school team on the way.

“Northside girls basketball has a bright future and it started right here with this group,” Leathers said. “We battled through all the COVID-19 challenges and never quit. It’s painful right now, but we will learn from it. We proved we belonged with the best 1A teams in the state, and we’ll do our best to keep improving.”