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Panthers prevail for title

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North Pitt's Nyjanique Langley (11) and other Panthers celebrate their NCHSAA Eastern Regional championship win over Kinston on Saturday in Minges Coliseum. (Molly Mathis/The Daily Reflector)

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By JORDAN ANDERS
The Daily Reflector

Saturday, March 3, 2018

In the penultimate game of her career, North Pitt senior guard Nyjanique Langley put forth perhaps her most impressive effort to help set up an opportunity at her second state championship.

Langley scored 21 of her career-high 41 points in the fourth quarter Saturday to pace the Panthers in a 71-51 victory over top seed Kinston in the 2-A East Regional championship game in Minges Coliseum.

North Pitt (25-5) advanced to the state title game for the second time in three seasons. It will have a chance to add to its 2016 championship when it takes on West champion North Wilkes next Saturday. That game is scheduled for noon at the Dean Smith Center in Chapel Hill.

"I'm lost for words right now," NP coach William Knight said. "The way that these girls have played throughout the year — their fight, their heart, their togetherness — I can't say enough about this team. We knew that we were in a battle today and they didn't let up. They didn't fear the competition and they played with heart today. I'm proud of this team.”

Taking a 46-41 lead to the fourth quarter, the Panthers outpaced the Vikings 25-10 in the final eight minutes. Langley outscored Kinston by herself in a fourth quarter that saw her make just one basket and go 19-of-22 from the free throw line.

In fact, NP as a team made just two baskets in the fourth. Ashanti Hines hit a 3-pointer 45 seconds into the fourth, and Langley's layup with 2:30 to play made it 60-49.

"Nyjanique never withered. She stayed in the game and kept her teammates in the game, and just played with all heart,” Knight said. “She doesn't want her career to stop, and (neither) does (fellow senior) Alyssa (Kerns). They've got one more game for the North Pitt Panthers, so we're blessed to be there next Saturday.”

Hines was the only other Panther in double figures, scoring 12. Danielle Heath led Kinston with 22 points.

While NP's guard play carried it through a tightly contested first three quarters, Kinston stayed close by abusing its size advantage inside with Heath and Anzaryia Cobb, who finished with 10 points.

The Panthers never trailed and led 30-22 at halftime. Heath pulled the Vikings within three, 46-43, in the opening seconds of the fourth, but North Pitt used a gritty performance by center Kerns, who had a team-high nine rebounds, to cancel out Kinston's game plan of pounding away inside.

"It was difficult, but I feel like I've learned over the season that I can jump higher than all those girls, no matter how tall they were," Kerns said. "We watched film and I was like, 'They don't jump,' so I knew if I jumped higher than them, I would get those rebounds."

Langley added seven rebounds, four steals and four assists to complete her stellar performance. She made eighth straight free throws at one point near the midway point of the fourth, and accounted for 21 of NP's final 22 points.

A player traditionally of few words, the left-hander summed up a chance at her second state championship somewhat predictably.

"Going there twice? I like it," she said.

Jacksonville 58

Havelock 45

Jacksonville's Kennedy Todd-Williams posted a double-double to help Jacksonville roll past Havelock in the 3-A East Regional finals.

Todd-Williams had a game-high 17 points and tied for a team-high 10 rebounds for the Cardinals (23-3). Areon Laurent added 11 for Jacksonville, which held Havelock (23-3) to just four points in the second quarter.

Aniylah Bryant and NyAsia Blango each had 12 points to lead Havelock.

The Cardinals out-rebounded the Rams 43-25.

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

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