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Knight: Panthers can handle regional stage

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North Pitt's head coach William Knight talks to players during their game against Graham on Feb. 20, 2018. (Molly Mathis/The Daily Reflector)

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By JORDAN ANDERS
The Daily Reflector

Saturday, March 3, 2018

The North Pitt girls’ basketball team that walks on the floor for the 2-A East Regional finals today will look almost nothing like the one that was on the same stage just two seasons ago.

That doesn’t make coach William Knight and the No. 3 seed Panthers any less confident they will achieve the same result.

NP’s girls (24-5) are back in the regional finals for the third time in the last four seasons, where they will battle top seed Kinston (29-1) at noon today in Minges Coliseum. The last time these two teams met at regionals, the Vikings topped a then-undefeated North Pitt team in 2015.

A year later, the Panthers bested East Bladen in the finals en route to a 2-A state championship. Just four of the 13 players on this year’s roster were on that state title team, making a game of this magnitude somewhat uncharted territory for most of Knight’s club.

“If anything, the atmosphere we’re going to be playing in (will be the challenge),” Knight said. “In a coliseum with a big crowd, hopefully we’ll adjust to that after the first couple of minutes of the game. But the girls are pretty confident. They are ready to play.”

After a surprising semifinal loss in the Eastern Plains 2-A Conference tournament, the Panthers have run through the first four rounds behind strong performances from the guard trio of Nyjanique Langley (26.3 points per game in the playoffs), Ashanti Hines (13.5) and Casandra Watson (11.0).

Kinston hasn’t lost since its season opener in November. The Vikings average 56.2 points per game but don’t have a player averaging in double figures. Senior Danielle Heath is their leading scorer at 8.4 points per game.

While it may not have a dominant scorer, Kinston’s scoring average is right in line with North Pitt’s (58.5). In fact, that’s not the only place the two teams are similar, according to Knight.

“They get up and down the court, and it’s like looking in a mirror at times watching them play,” he said. “They like to play up-tempo like we do, so it’s going to be an up-and-down game. It won’t be a boring game. It’ll be a lot of running and getting up and down the court, so it’s going to be interesting.

“The key for us will be playing together and talking on offense and defense. If we stay cohesive and stay together, we’ll have a good game and adapt as the game goes on.”

Contact Jordan Anders at janders@reflector.com, 252-329-9594 and follow @ReflectorJordan on Twitter.

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