Area teams end season with first round exits

Published 5:46 pm Wednesday, February 23, 2022

The state basketball tournament ended early for four Beaufort County teams after first round losses.

The 25th-seeded Northside boys almost pulled the biggest upset of the first round, but fell, 60-56 to #8 Neuse Charter in Smithfield.

The Panthers (9-11) led by two points with 20 seconds left, but the home team hit a three-pointer for the lead with 11 ticks remaining. After a timeout, the Panthers turned the ball over on an errant pass that ended their season.

“We’ve had a chance in every game this season, but some have slipped away at the end,” coach Jared Adams said. “It was good to get playoff experience after missing out last year and I’ll have three starters back. I will miss our seniors, since they are the first group I’ve coached all four years. They’ve given us leadership and experience and I think the young guys will come back hungry for more.

Sophomore Quay Artis led the scoring with 18 points, while senior Keifer Boyd had 15 and sophomore Griffin Johnson added 14.

The 28th-seeded Southside boys traveled to Bayview to face conference champion Pamlico County for the third time and lost to the 5th-seeded Hurricanes, 68-48 to finish 7-14.

“It’s tough to play a good team for the third time, especially at their place, but we are happy to actually get to compete in the state tournament,” coach Davelle Whitney said. The Seahawks qualified last year, but didn’t play because of last-minute COVID-19 contact tracing issues.

The 16th-seeded Seahawks girls held a 20-19 lead after the first quarter against #17 Woods Charter, but lost 80-62, despite 50 points from junior Ka’Nyah O’Neal.

Southside (13-8) had trouble defending their opponent from Chapel Hill and allowed a season-high point total.

“Ka’Nyah can’t be our only scorer and we can’t give up 80 points and expect to win,” coach Milton Ruffin said. “She is our only upperclassman who plays and our young girls gained valuable experience all season.

Ka’Nyah has been a more vocal leader for us this season and she’s not afraid to pass the ball. Her teammates have to keep working to improve, so they can help her out more next year. We can’t expect her to score 50 every night and we’ll be a better team as our younger players improve.”

The Pungo Christian Academy girls ran into one of the top teams in the state, public or private, in the North Carolina Independent Schools 1A state semi-finals, as they lost at Grace Christian of Sanford, 103-39.

6’2 sophomore post player Sarah Strong scored 40 points and grabbed 24 rebounds, including 18 offensive, as the Crusaders improved to 24-1.

“She is one of the best players in the state for a reason,” PCA coach Kelly Rouse said. “She made it very difficult for us and they are the best team we’ve played all year. I’m proud of our progress and, as a first-year coach, didn’t expect us to win our conference and make it back to the Final Four. We lose three players, but return five, so I’m excited about next season.”

ESPN ranks Strong as the fifth-best player in her recruiting class and she’s already received offers from the major powers in women’s basketball.

Sophomore Ginny Pugh led PCA with nine points, while juniors Reagan Stoop and Ashley Williford scored eight.