STATE PLAYOFFS: Half-dozen area teams vie for Elite Eight Friday
And then there were six.
Three girls’ and three boys’ teams enter the Sweet 16 of the N.C. High School Athletic Association basketball tournament Friday, Feb. 28, including at least two distinct favorites in No. 2 4-A boys’ seed Northern and undefeated No. 1 3-A girls’ seed Chapel Hill.
No. 1 3-A boys’ seed Orange would normally be in that group, but the Panthers’ home game against No. 9 Eastern Alamance appears to be more of a toss-up because of the presence of Eastern Alamance’s standout point guard, Lamont Robinson. Robinson, a 5-7 dynamo who averages better than 25 points and seven rebounds a game, took Eastern to the state Elite Eight last year before falling to eventual state champ Oxford Webb and current UNC freshman Isaiah Hicks.
Robinson’s ballhandling, passing and scoring talents tend to offset many top teams’ best attributes. He’s a Mount St. Mary’s signee.
Also in the toss-up category are No. 13 3-A boys’ seed Southern and No. 5 4-A girls’ seed Hillside.
Southern will travel to Shallotte to meet No. 5 West Brunswick. Southern’s riding a rising tide and would likely be a slight favorite except that it’s playing on the road.
Hillside devastated Broughton 90-64 in the second round when junior star Justine Lyon posted a career-best 42 points, while senior Zuri White flashed gaudy 25-point, 26-rebound numbers against the Caps.
Hillside travels to Graham to meet No. 4 seed Southern Alamance tonight. If the Hornets hit their shots, particularly inside and on the break, and keep turnovers to a minimum, it wouldn’t surprise anyone to see them move on to the East Regional semifinals next week in Fayetteville.
Only 3-A girls’ No. 19 seed Riverside is a decided underdog, the Pirates traveling to Fayetteville to meet No. 6 seed E.E. Smith. But the Pirates have won their two opening round games when many people didn’t think they would and they have the talent — including 6-3 junior Moné Jones, a 4-star national recruiting target in the middle — to get the job done.
Looking down the road, the East Regional semifinals that could involve area teams will all be played at Fayetteville’s Crown Coliseum next week at either 7 p.m. or 8:30 p.m.
The 3-A girls’ semis (Elite Eight) will be played Tuesday night, the 3-A boys’ semis on Wednesday, the 4-A girls’ semis on Thursday and the 4-A boys’ semis on Friday.
If Southern and Orange win tonight, they will play each other Wednesday.
Riverside and Hillside are in different East Region pods (think East and Mideast, though the pods aren’t named) and wouldn’t meet unless and until they won in the regional semifinals.
The East Regional title games are all scheduled for Saturday, March 8 at Crown Coliseum. The 3-A girls open at noon, the 3-A boys play at 2 p.m., the 4-A girls at 4 p.m. and the 4-A boys at 6 p.m.
NOTE — One area playoff result was not available in time Wednesday night for Thursday’s paper. In that one, No. 1 1-A Mideast seed Neuse Charter eliminated the No. 8 Mideast seed Granville Central boys 73-36.
NCHSAA East Regional Quarterfinals
All games scheduled Friday, Feb. 28
No. 7 Apex (19-7) at No. 2 Northern (26-2), 7 p.m.
No. 9 Eastern Alamance (23-4) at No. 1 Orange (24-5), 7 p.m.
No. 13 Southern (17-10) at No. 5 Shallotte West Brunswick (19-7), 7 p.m.
No. 5 Hillside (22-5) at No. 4 Graham Southern Alamance (23-3), 7 p.m.
No. 19 Riverside (18-8) at No. 6 Fayetteville E.E. Smith (20-5), 7 p.m.
No. 9 Northern Guilford (21-5) at No. 1 Chapel Hill (28-0), 7 p.m.