- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
As each player, coach and staff member on the North Point girls basketball team cut down each part of the net, smiles of joy and celebration filled the North Point gymnasium, and for good reason.
For the third-straight season, the top-seeded Eagles claimed the Class 4A East Region championship over second-seeded South River of Anne Arundel County, with a dominating 71-47 victory in Friday night’s rematch.
Thanks in part to a strong second half of full-court ball-hawking defense, North Point out-scored the feisty Seahawks 49-26, including a 26-11 third quarter that broke the game open.
Like the Eagles (25-0 overall) have all season, they showed that in spurts they could explode and put the game away at anytime, winning their 25th straight game to stay unbeaten this season.
With the victory, North Point returns to the University of Maryland Baltimore County’s RAC Arena in Baltimore to take on 4A South Region champion Eleanor Roosevelt of Prince George’s County at 5 p.m. Thursday in the state semifinals.
Walt Whitman of Montgomery County, the West champion, will take on Baltimore Polytechnic, the North champion, in the other 4A state semifinal Thursday.
The two state semifinal winners meet at 3 p.m. Saturday at UMBC for the state championship.
Head coach Michael Serpone mentioned that he knew it was going to be a dogfight with South River. After only leading 22-21 at halftime, his team wore the visitors down in the third quarter on the boards and turned up the defense another notch.
“We knew South River wasn’t a pushover, they out-hustled us in the first half and punched us in the mouth,” said Serpone, whose team has scored at least 70 points seven times this season, while defeating opponents by at least 20 points in 20 of its 25 games this season. “We outlast teams and if you ever come into practice, it is hectic and we don’t stop, we come after you.”
The focus now for Serpone is to win it all at UMBC, having fallen in the state semifinals to Dr. Henry A. Wise of Prince George’s County last season, 64-62, and Gaithersburg of Montgomery County, 62-35, two seasons ago.
“We are going to enjoy this right now, but we have to get back to work,” Serpone said. “We want to win it all. Last year, we felt we were the best team in the state, and we didn’t take care of business. We have to go up there and get the job done this time.”
Senior guard Tasia Butler, a Syracuse University commit, was an unstoppable force with her 6-foot-1 frame, finishing with a game-high 33 points and knocking down 18 of 22 free throws, 82 percent. The Eagles were 24 of 37 (65 percent) from the foul line. Senior guard Chalise Greenwood contributed with 11 points, while senior forward Ebane Mainor added nine.
“Third time’s the charm,” an excited Butler said. “It feels good to win the region again. We didn’t play well in the first half, but in the second half, we were focused.”
“Tasia brings it to the table every night, and she comes up huge for us in big games,” Serpone added.
Greenwood, normally a facilitator, came up huge with her scoring, including a second-half three-pointer to help give the Eagles a 33-24 midway through the third quarter, and jump-started the second-half run that pushed the hosts out to a 48-32 lead heading to the fourth.
“This is very exciting,” Greenwood said. “We had some bumps tonight, but when they played zone on us, I had my feet set ready to shoot. This was very special to cut the nets down in my last home game.”
South River (22-4) led 12-11 after the first quarter and only trailed 22-21 at halftime. The visitors were led by senior guard Bre Bolden, who finished with a team-high 26 points, 15 of those coming in the second half. Senior guard Tiffany McKinney added 10 points.
“Bre is definitely one of the best players I ever coached,” said South River head coach Mike Zivic, whose team had numerous second-half turnovers from the Eagles’ swarming defense. “North Point just beat us up in the second half, and we didn’t do what we needed to do to win.”