Northwood Coach Cameron Vernon says that even bad things “happen for a reason,” so there are still some good lessons to be drawn from his Chargers’ 55-36 playoff loss to Saturday to Eastern Alamance.
The chief reason that Northwood, seeded No. 10 in the N.C. High School Athletics Association 3A East bracket, fell to No. 15 Eastern Alamance in the third round was poor shooting, he said.
“We shot 11-for-44, and you aren't going to beat good teams shooting the ball that poorly,” Vernon said.
Eastern (26-3) grabbed an early 6-0 lead to start the game, and Northwood (25-5) spent most of the night playing catchup.
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Helped by 10 consecutive Northwood points by junior Jazanae Billings, including two 3-point baskets, the Chargers finally pulled even at 34-34 midway through the fourth quarter.
Eastern Alamance repeatedly went to the line and pulled away in the closing minutes, outscoring Northwood by a 21-2 margin in the last 5 minutes of the game.
“I think we used a lot of energy to bring us back in the game, and then Eastern Alamance's veteran leadership really took over once we tied,” Vernon said. “They got exactly what they wanted working the ball inside and getting high percentage shots, or forced us to foul them, sending them to the line.”
Billings led Northwood with 18 points, while junior classmate Kristian Eanes had 9.
Eastern hit 17 of 42 shots from the field (29 percent), which was only slightly better than Northwood (25 percent), but the Eagles hit 20 of 32 free throws, giving them almost as many points at the line as Northwood scored from the field.
Eastern Alamance also got bunches of second-chance points from three seniors. Midori Long led all scorers with 21 points and 9 rebounds, while Lindsey Barker had 15 points and 8 rebounds, and Bree Evans recorded a double-double of 11 points and 10 rebounds.
“They did a very nice job of getting the ball inside to Evans and Long,” Vernon said.
Eastern was one of three Mid-State 3A Conference teams to advance to the state playoffs’ fourth round, which gave the conference three of the East 3A’s last four spots. No. 3 Rockingham County bumped off Union Pines 60-30 Saturday night, while No. 12 Northern Guilford won 57-51 at No. 4 Nash Central.
Northern Guilford previously had knocked off No. 5 Chapel Hill 64-49 in the tournament’s second round. The Nighthawks played at No. 1 Fayetteville Terry Sanford on Tuesday.
The Big 8 Conference went 0-3 in meetings with the Mid-State. Eastern opened the state playoffs by eliminating the Big 8’s third-place team, No. 18-seeded Southern Durham, 58-51. The Eagles then upset East No. 2 seed Cleveland, 33-32, after Cleveland had ousted the Big 8’s Orange team, 47-41 in the first round.
No. 15 Eastern’s reward was a rubber match of its series with No. 3 Rockingham County (26-4). They played Tuesday night in Wentworth. (See nchsaa.org for results.)
Eastern and Rockingham shared the Mid-State 3A Conference championship after both finished 14-2 in league games and split their regular-season games against each other. Rockingham earned the conference’s top spot in the state playoffs after advancing to the Mid-State’s tournament final against Northern Guilford (23-7), which finished third in the league’s standings but then knocked out Eastern in the Mid-State’s semifinals.
Vernon’s team, likewise, shared a conference crown this year, tying Chapel Hill (22-6) for the title after splitting their home-and-away series and both finishing 10-2 in Big 8 Conference games.
Chapel Hill won the Big 8 Conference’s top seed in a post-season random draw and went on to win the Big 8 tournament, the Tigers’ sixth straight conference tournament title.
“As disappointed as we are, we should still be proud to have a share of the conference championship and we were able to win 25 games in a great league,” Vernon said.
“We have a lot returning, but we will miss Jazmine Atkins and Samaria Chance. But I told the girls after the game that I believe things in life happen for a reason and for whatever reason, we are not advancing.
“So we need to use this as motivation and get into the gym and work on our game so we aren't going home early next year.
By the numbers
Big 8 Girls Teams
No. 31 seeded Orange lost 47-41 at No. 2 Cleveland in the 1st round.
No. 18 Southern Durham lost 58-51 at No. 15 Eastern Alamance in the 1st round.
No. 5 Chapel Hill defeated No. 28 Corinth Holders in the 1st round; lost 64-49 to No. 12 Northern Guilford in the 2nd round.
No. 10 Northwood defeated No. 23 Asheboro 53-41 in the 1st round; defeated No. 26 Eastern Guilford 60-43 in 2nd round; lost to No. 15 Eastern Alamance in the 3rd round.
Big 8 Boys Teams
No. 31 Chapel Hill lost 73-54 at No. 2 Terry Sanford in the 1st round
No. 17 Cedar Ridge won at No. 16 Rocky Mount 81-77 in 1st round; lost 94-73 at No. 1 Eastern Alamance in 2nd round
No. 14 Orange lost 76-74 at No. 3 Havelock in 2nd round
No. 5 Southern Durham defeated No. 28 Hunt 78-53 in 1st round; defeated No. 12 Southern Lee 76-63 in 2nd round; won at No. 4 Asheboro 71-51 in 3rd round. Plays Tuesday night at No. 1 Eastern Alamance in a 4th round game.