Area teams battle for position as post-season looms

Published 5:12 pm Friday, February 3, 2023

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With two weeks left before state tournament pairings are announced, the county boys and girls teams are battling to improve their seed or be part of the 32-team field.

Senior Ka’Nyah O’Neal’s dominate season has lifted the Southside girls into the eighth spot in the MaxPreps 1A RPI rankings. The Seahawks are 18-4 and 5-1 in the Coastal Plains Conference after a come-from-behind 54-42 home victory over Riverside Thursday. Southside outscored the Knights, 21-8, in the fourth quarter behind O’Neal’s 37 points and 16 rebounds.

She entered Friday’s game against Lejeune with 2,154 points, good for 41st on the state’s all-time list. O’Neal needs 21 more rebounds for 1,000 in her career, which would make her the 13th player in state girls history with 2,000 career points and 1,000 rebounds. Nine of the other 12 have gone on to play Division I college basketball.

“She continues to play very well for us within the team concept,” coach Milton Ruffin said. “She loves to get her teammates involved and they’ve done a better job of taking the load off her this year. Lily McLean and I’kiriyah Minor are shooting the ball much better and our defense has picked up. We’re in a good spot, but there’s plenty of games left.”

The Seahawks defeated county rival Northside, 58-45, at home Tuesday to complete a regular season sweep. The Panthers are 13-5 overall and are 10th in the latest RPI rankings.

Falls Lake (22-0), Chatham Charter, North Duplin, Northampton County and Perquimans are the top five in the 1A RPI rankings.

The Washington girls are 45th in the 2A rankings with an 0-15 record. Northeastern, EPC rival North Pitt, Wilson Beddingfield, Fairmont and St. Paul’s are the 2A East top five.

The Washington boys are 21st with a 9-12 record going into Friday’s match-up at North Pitt with third place in the conference on the line.

Sophomore Javon Williams is second in the league in scoring at 18.4, trailing Farmville Central senior Jah Short (22.5). Freshman Chaise Smith is fourth (15.4) and junior Jerai Davenport is eighth at 13.6.

Farmville Central, Goldsboro, Hertford County, Kinston and Northeastern are the top five boys teams in the 2A east rankings.

The Southside boys (7-12, 4-2) are on the playoff bubble after a 64-54 win over Northside Tuesday and a loss to Riverside Thursday. The Seahawks are 29th in the 1A rankings with 32 playoff spots up for grabs.

Northside (5-15, 0-7) is 41st in the rankings.

Junior Tate Gibbs is third in the CPC with 7.2 rebounds a game and 11th in scoring at 9.8.

Both conferences will have post-season tournaments for the first time since the 2020 season.

First round state tournament games begin at the higher seed February 21.