High school basketball: Northside boys seek first semifinals berth since '09

dmitchell@ledger-enquirerFebruary 26, 2013 

Northside High basketball has a ritual after its wins. No matter if it’s a close game or a blowout, a difficult opponent or an easier one, at the end of the day the Patriots take the result and throw it in the trash.

They did just that after a 61-56 win over Richmond Hill last Saturday. In the playoffs, there’s no time for pats on the back.

On Wednesday, the Patriots (24-4) will be tested again when they face Jenkins in the quarterfinals, a chance at their first semifinals berth since 2009 on the line.

“These guys know what’s at stake,” Northside coach Kenneth Lawrence said. “Jenkins is an excellent team. They’ve got good athletes, good guard play and they’re physical.”

Jenkins (22-8) has lost just once since Jan. 15, by one point to Effingham County in the Region 3-AAAAA tournament championship.

Lawrence said that he knows the challenge his team will face, but his team isn’t to shabby itself.

“We have to handle the ball well and cut down on turnovers,” he said. “We have good guards, too, though, so it’s going to come down to who can execute the best.”

The team will, as always, rely on R.J. Sessions, who averaged 18.2 points per game during the regular season and led the team with 16 points in the win on Saturday.

It’s been more than one player, though, that has given Lawrence his highest single-season winning percentage in nine years at the school.

At the beginning of the year, Lawrence said, they set a number of team goals such as winning the region title in the regular season and winning the region tournament. There are two left on the list.

“We’ve reached most of our goals,” he said. “We have two left. We want to reach the final four, and we want to win it all.”

It’s a difficult task, to be sure. And Lawrence said he doesn’t think this is the most talented team he’s had. What it has more of than past teams, though, is chemistry.

“Most of these seniors were here as freshmen and struggled through some bad early years,” Lawrence said. “They’ve improved every year, their chemistry is better than some other teams, and I think they had the idea that this year would be the most successful.”

A win on Wednesday would make that a reality.

Jordan seeks second straight trip to semifinals

With a win over Model (15-11) at home on Wednesday, the Red Jackets (20-6) will advance to the Class AA semifinals for the second consecutive season.

It wasn’t a given that the team would make it as far this season, not when it began the year 2-3. Still, it was an expectation coach Gerald Turner had for his team. Returning the majority of his lineup, he knew it had the talent to succeed.

Now, he says, the team just needs to keep doing what it’s doing.

“We just need to keep playing with a sense of urgency,” he said after the team’s win against Dade County on Saturday.

Jamar Sheppard echoed those sentiments.

“We don’t want to change anything,” he said.

Sheppard said on Saturday that after the semifinals experience last year, the team is more prepared to take the next step.

“We’re experienced now,” Sheppard said. “We know what it’s like, and we’re ready for it.”

David Mitchell, 706-571-8571; Follow David @leprepsports.

Postseason Schedule:

Wednesday’s Games

Boys

GHSA

Class AAAAA

Jenkins at Northside, 6 p.m.

Class AA

Model at Jordan, 6:30 p.m.

Manchester at GAC, 6:30 p.m.

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