While the Camden and Northeastern boys and Pasquotank girls have made it through the first two rounds of the playoffs, the task will be much tougher tonight at 7 p.m. when each of them play in section final games.
In 2A, Pasquotank (24-1) will be hosting a Bunn team (22-6) which has won 19 straight games and Northeastern (23-4) will be at defending state champion Kinston (24-2).
In the 1A tournament, Camden (20-7) travels to Robersonville to face fellow Four Rivers Conference member South Creek (23-6), which has beaten the Bruins the last two times the teams have played.
Here’s a closer look at tonight’s games:
Bunn girls at Pasquotank
Lady Panthers coach Janie Cofield has been in this position before.
“We’ve been to the section finals three times,” she said. “But we have three runnerup trophies in the trophy case.
“I think this is our chance to win one. You have to take advantage of the opportunities when you get them. The girls are working hard and are really focused.”
Top-seeded Pasquotank brings its own impressive winning streak into the game. The Lady Panthers have won 11 in a row behind the play of Mikeara Jordan (18.9 points a game), Chelsey Elliott (10.8 points, 13.7 rebounds) and Tyanna Green (8.9 points, six assists).
Dottie Elliott (9.0 rebounds) and Ishira McClease (4.3 steals) have also stepped up offensively in recent games.
Bunn is powered by Tainesha Vines (15.0 points) and Whitney Bunn (14.7).
Cofield said she doesn’t know a whole lot about the Lady Wildcats, except that they like to play pressure defense.
“We’re not that concerned about it, though, Bertie presses and we work on breaking it every day in practice,” she said.
“But I also know it gets harder as you go a long. All the teams now are good and no one wants to play their last game.”
Tonight’s winner will play the winner of Kinston (23-4) and Northwood (24-4) in next week’s East Region semifinals in Fayetteville.
NHS boys at Kinston
The home-standing Vikings have an enviable basketball pedigree. They have won eight state titles — two in the last five years —and have produced some notable players like Jerry Stackhouse, Cedric Maxwell and current North Carolina player Reggie Bullock.
While there are no big-time players on this team, Denzel Keyes, a 6-5 senior who has signed to play basketball and football at North Carolina A&T, averages 19.1 points and 7.5 rebounds. Brandon Foreman, a 6-8 center, averages 10.2 points and guard Josh Dawson scores at an 11.2 clip.
Kinston has won 14 straight games since suffering back-to-back losses in a holiday tournament and won its first two playoff games by scores of 86-60 and 80-35.
Northeastern coach Ronald Nixon has plenty of respect for the Vikings, but he likes two things about the challenge:
“We seem to play our best on the road and we are the underdogs,” he said. “Being the underdog will encourage the guys to push each other harder.
“We are going into the game optimistic. If we go in there thinking we are going to lose, then that’s going to be the outcome.”
Nixon thinks the Eagles, who revolve around the play of brothers Aaron (14.8 points, 13.0 rebounds, 5.9 blocks) and Trey Carver (10.5 points, 6.3 rebounds) and point guard Marquis Whidbee (10.7 points, 3.2 assists), match up well.
“Kinston is aggressive, has good size and is very athletic,” he said. “That fits the description of our team as well.
“For us, this is going to come down to fundamentals; boxing out, playing good transition defense. They really like to push the ball. I heard from another coach if you can get them in a half-court game, you can take them out of their game.”
The winner of tonight’s game will play the winner of Farmville Central (22-5) and Bunn (22-6) in the East Region semifinals in Fayetteville next week.
Camden boys at South Creek
Okay, so South Creek has won its last two games against Camden, but by no stretch of the imagination is this an impossible task for the Bruins.
Not only did Camden beat the Redskins 71-59 in the first conference meeting, the Bruins were tied up with them in the fourth quarter of their 66-55 loss in the conference tournament semifinals last week.
“It’s not like we played poorly against them the last time,” Camden coach Mark Harnly said. “Down the stretch we didn’t make our shots and they got every loose ball.
“To beat them we are going to have to shoot better and limit their second-chance opportunities. Last time I thought we played great defense on the first shot, but they out-scrapped us on the rebounds. They made three threes after getting the offensive rebound and kicking it back out.
“You can’t give them points like that.”
Since a late-season slump that saw the Bruins drop three straight and seem to lose their offense, Camden has been on the rebound. The Bruins have won five of six, captured two road wins in the playoffs and are looking like the team Harnly expected them to be.
Shaquille Joyner is averaging 14.5 points and 7.3 rebounds, Brett Forbes averages 13.3 points and 7.8 boards and Jake McDaniels 12.6 points.
“We had high expectations coming into the season,” said Harnley who has coached Camden to the region tournament five times since 2005. “We had a lot of experience and some of these kids went to Fayetteville (region tourney) as freshmen.
“But then we had a two-week stretch where we played horrible. Since then, we have played a lot better.”
Tonight’s winner will take on the winner of Four Rivers champ Plymouth (25-0) and Rocky Mount (21-3) in next week’s region semifinals in Fayetteville, which says a lot about Camden’s conference.
“Our league is tough, we have three of the four teams still left in our section,” Harnly said. “So losing twice to South Creek isn’t anything to be ashamed of.”