Eight area teams qualify for NCHSAA playoffs

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Tuesday night will open the door for eight teams from The Wilson Times readership area to chase their aspirations for a North Carolina High School Athletic Association state championship when area action gets underway in the 2-A and 3-A classifications.

Two teams, the Hunt High girls and Greene Central boys, will be at home for the first round Tuesday night. The second and third rounds are tentatively scheduled for Thursday and Saturday evenings, respectively.

Among boys entrants in 3-A, Fike (11-13), the No. 4 seed from the Big East and No. 30 out of 32 East region qualifiers, draws the challenge of Eastern Guilford (23-2), the No. 3 seed and champion of the Mid-Piedmont Conference. The Golden Demons punched their ticket to the postseason only after taking down archrival Hunt 73-58 in a game to decide the Big East’s No. 4 seed on Friday night.

In respect to drawing the No. 3 seed, Fike head coach Brent Secrest responded: “If you expect to do well, you have to play them eventually. We expected to go to the Greensboro area or play someone from our conference. We are happy to be in.”

Secrest describes Eastern Guilford’s best player as a 6-foot-4 performer.

“They play a lot like Rocky Mount,” he referred to his scouting report. “They play hectic on defense. They’re not great but good shooters. I think we can run with them.”

Togetherness and fighting adversity, said Secrest, have marked Fike’s season.

“For us, it’s going to be defense and rebounding, as usual,” he declared.

The other 3-A area matchup has Southern Nash (14-10), the No. 3 seed from the Big East and No. 24 overall, visiting No. 9 overall seed Greenville Rose (18-8) on Tuesday night at 6. Southern Nash faces the Rampants, the top 3-A finisher in the split 3-A/4-A Eastern Carolina Conference, after losing a game to Rocky Mount to determine the league’s No. 2 postseason slot.

Greene Central, at 21-6, could present as a dangerous No. 9 seed in its bracket. The Rams (21-6), who shared the Eastern Carolina Conference title with Kinston, lost a tight 61-60 game to the Vikings in the ECC tournament championship game. Greene Central, which reached the 2-A Eastern Regional final last season, faces St. Pauls (14-12), the No. 24 seed and fourth-place finisher in the split 1-A/2-A Three Rivers Conference at 6 p.m. Tuesday.

Grabbing the No. 32 and final seed in the 2-A East bracket is Beddingfield after finishing fourth in the Eastern Plains Conference. The Bruins (9-13) face the task of venturing to former EPC rival Kinston (20-4), the top overall seed, in Tuesday’s first round at 7:30.

“We’re happy we got into the playoffs,” expressed Bruins head coach Joe Dvozenja. “It was a good surprise. But we prepared last Friday as if we were going to make the playoffs.”

Beddingfield expects a talented and big Kinston team to play man-to-man defense.

“We won two of our last three games,” Dvozenja noted. “Our older guys know who they are. We have to get more production out of some people and take care of the basketball. If we take care of the basketball, we’re a decent team. We are going to give it everything we’ve got and see what happens.”

On the girls’ side, Hunt (15-7) of the Big East Conference will be the only area team to play at home in the opening round. The Lady Warriors, champions of a conference for the first time since 1985, are the No. 8 seed in the 32-team East bracket and draw No. 25 Jacksonville Northside (9-12) in the first round. The Lady Monarchs finished fourth in the Coastal Conference standings and visit Hunt for a 6 p.m. tip.

Second-year head coach Tiffany Parks hopes Hunt will benefit from an overtime loss in last year’s playoffs.

“Last year was a good experience for our girls,” Parks contended. “Now, they know and they’re ready. They are excited to play at home. Not playing a team close to home should take a little pressure off our younger players.”

Parks admits she was hoping for a higher seed, but is fairly familiar with Northside, mentioning a “really good shooter.”

“Hopefully, we will play like we did last Thursday (defeated Fike to clinch the Big East championship),” she remarked. “But with us, it’s always communication between ourselves. And that’s been a problem.”

Getting a road assignment is Fike as the No. 21 seed. The No. 3 qualifier from the Big East, the Lady Demons (17-6) travel to Southern Durham (18-7) for a Tuesday game that begins at 6. Fike deadlocked Franklinton for second place but lost both regular-season games to the Lady Rams. The Lady Spartans enter as the No. 2 qualifier from the Big 8 Conference.

“We are one of the highest No. 3 seeds from a conference,” reasoned first-year Fike head coach Jeff Nelson. “We have similar records; it should be a good matchup. They have a couple of scorers.”But which Fike team will show?

“We want to continue to play really good basketball — one game at a time,” Nelson declared. “This is the second season. One loss now and you’re done. We just have to show up and play our game.”

In 2-A, both North Johnston and SouthWest Edgecombe will have road tests. The Lady Panthers, 18-6 and No. 21 overall, visit Midway as the No. 4 qualifier from the EPC after Farmville Central captured the league’s tournament title from the No. 5 seed. Midway (22-2) enters as the co-regular season champion from the East Central Conference and will be the site for Tuesday’s 6:30 tip.

The last of five EPC teams into the field is SouthWest Edgecombe (12-9), which logged the No. 22 seed and faces No. 11 Croatan (21-4). The Lady Cougars are the No. 2 qualifier from the split 1-A/2-A Coastal 8 Conference and host SouthWest on Tuesday at 7.