Bertie and Northeastern’s boys basketball teams have played their last two games to one-point decisions, both going to the Falcons, giving Bertie a 2-1 series edge.
The Eagles could only earn a tie with a win in the fourth meeting tonight, but it would mean much more: a berth into the third round of the 2A state playoffs.
NHS’ boys and Pasquotank’s girls will both continue in the postseason at home tonight, as the top-seeded Lady Panthers face No. 8 Wilson Beddingfield.
Among other area teams, Camden’s boys and Currituck’s girls are also in the second round and on the road.
The Bruins, seeded No. 10, face No. 2 Northampton and the No. 8 Lady Knights play at No. 1 Eastern Wayne.
In a rivalry that’s come down to six points total amongst three games, Eagles coach Ronald Nixon understands it’s just a possession here and there that truly separates the Northeastern Coastal Conference clubs.
While No. 4 Northeastern won the league’s regular season, No. 5 seed Bertie clipped NHS on a last-second basket to win the NCC tournament final last Friday.
“What has to be different this time is we have to regain our possession with transition defense because they beat us up and down the court,” Nixon said. “We have to be more aggressive offensively and defensively.
“Bertie has some guards who are very aggressive and can get to the hole. They’re not a good shooting team, but one thing about them is that they will get second chance points.”
Camden is fresh off of its first road playoff win in more than six years, beating a spirited Voyager Academy in Durham 62-48.
It was Voyager’s first-ever basketball playoff game, and its student section made sure to do what it could to play mind games with the Bruins, creating a cheer sheet designed to ruffle the feathers of each Camden player.
Brett Forbes liked their loyalty and the rowdy environment, but was surprised to see the sheet when it surfaced on Facebook and Twitter Sunday night.
“You could tell how much time they put into it, because they went to Facebook and figured out who our girlfriends are and looked at our stats,” Forbes said. “It’s just funny how they did it, and we went down there and beat them.”
Camden coach Mark Harnly also liked the enthusiasm.
“I got a scouting report from a guy who played them, and he said their student section is pretty loud,” Harnly said. “Our student section is pretty good, and theirs was, too, but I’ll take ours. But it’s very creative to research on the Internet like that, and our kids handled it well and laughed at it more than anything.
“I’m getting texts Sunday night saying, ‘Coach, you’ve got to see this, I saved it to my Twitter.’ And I smiled. They went to MaxPreps, Facebook and Twitter and found all of the info. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist, but whoever did it put in some work.”
One cheer designated for player Mark Nelson noted him as ‘Mr. Technical’ due to his having two this season.
Probably not enough to merit the moniker, but enough to make Nelson smile and want to show off his tough style of play.
“I guess I do foul a lot, but I guess it does kind of fit my game,” Nelson said. “It’s kind of weird, and I don’t know how they figured all that stuff about us. Some of them tried to add me on Facebook, but I didn’t accept them.
“I actually pride myself on the techs. I guess it shows I have emotion. I was thinking about getting one yesterday for show, but I didn’t.”
Although Camden beat second round opponent Northampton last December, Harnly sees a much tougher team now.
The Tar-Roanoke Conference champs have lost just once since to Rocky Mount Prep, ranked fourth in the NCPreps.com 1A poll.
“That league is tough and very athletic, so I don’t think anybody’s looking past anybody, and the fact we’re on the road makes it trickier,” Harnly said.