With both teams playing their second game in as many days and at least one key player missing from each group, it would be easy to understand a letdown by both squads in the Region 1-AAAA boys basketball tournament consolation game Friday between Northside and Hardaway.
But both teams came out with energy and battled back and forth before Northside’s press down the stretch proved to be the difference in the Patriots’ 56-49 win at home.
“We battled pretty hard, that’s for sure,” Northside coach Kenny Lawrence said. “It was kind of hard, playing again today after the late game on Thursday, but the guys really showed what they’re made of. It would have been easy for them to not put a lot into this game, but they did. And we, both teams, kind of grinded along through, and we caught some breaks in the fourth quarter.”
The game was tight through the first three quarters, with neither team getting more than a seven-point lead, but three consecutive steals and buckets helped Northside turn a 41-38 advantage after the third quarter into a 47-38 lead with a little more than 4 minutes to play.
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“Our nontraditional, I guess we can call them, basketball players came through with some hustle plays when we needed them,” Lawrence said, talking about steals and turnovers created by Labarrius Turner and Justin Lawrence during that important stretch of the game. “Those guys just battled all night. It wasn’t easy for them inside, and they just made plays for us.”
Turner and Lawrence did struggle in the traditional game in the paint against Hardaway’s J.T. Overtree, who was the game’s leading scorer with 19 points, and Cedric Jackson, who had 13 rebounds and six blocks.
“The guys from Hardaway aren’t much taller than our players (Overtree and Jackson are listed at 6-foot-4; Turner is 6-2 and Lawrence is 6-1) but they’ve got some long arms, which make it seem like they’re 6-7 or 6-8, and that caused our guys problems in the paint,” Lawrence said. “But the versatility of our guys helped them make plays in space, and that helped us win.”
R.J. Sessions led Northside with 16 points, including four 3-pointers. Jeremy Floyd had 13 points, including two 3-pointers. Justin Lawrence had 11 points, and Turner had 10 for Northside’s balanced attack.
Hardaway coach Alex Davis admitted his team might have been tired, but he praised the play of Overtree and Jackson.
“In last night’s game, we kind of lost our big guys inside. They didn’t contribute to what they’re supposed to be doing,” Davis said. “They came back with a little more fire tonight because they realized we’re still in the state tournament. And this game is just a tune-up for next week.”
Both teams played without key contributors. Hardaway’s leading scorer, Arius Prophet, has been out for more than a month and a half, dealing with a concussion, and Davis doesn’t expect him back the rest of the season.
“We’ve gotten better each game. I’ve got a young team, and they’re just learning each other,” Davis said. “It’s a good time to learn, because a lot of teams are sitting at home, and we know we’re lucky to still be playing. You never want to lose, but we’re still learning.”
The news better for Northside. Swing player Tay Sears has missed the past six games, but he got out of a walking boot this week, and Lawrence expects to have him when the Patriots are in the state playoff next week.
“We don’t know when we’ll be playing, but, at this point we believe we’ll have him with us,” Lawrence said. “We’re all looking forward to having him back. And we’re looking forward to having a few days off as well.”
Friday at Northside
@z-BR TabQuarters 1col:Hardaway 15 7 16 11--49
Northside 16 9 16 15--56
DeAngelo Brown 6, Vic Ellis 5, DQ Billingsley 11, Cedric Jackson 8, T.J. Overtree 19
R.J. Sessions 16, Lawrence 11, Labarrius Turner 10, Jeremy Floyd 13, Jenkins 1, Beverly 5
Team records: Northside is 14-11; Hardaway is 10-17. Both teams begin the state playoffs next week, but opponents and times are to be determined.