24_Northside – Lake Taylor Boys BBall

24_Northside – Lake Taylor Boys BBall 1800 873 SWVA High School Sports

2024 Group 3A Boys State Basketball Championship

Northside makes it two straight championships in 73-58 win over Lake Taylor

Siegel Center @ VCU, Richmond, VA– The Northside Vikings made it ‘back to back’ state championships with a big third quarter, knocking off Lake Taylor, the #2 team in the state in Group 3A, 73-58. Northside head coach Bill Pope summed it up. “The team, all year, has been really remarkable. One of the biggest things I talked about early in the year was the way they handled the ball. Our assists to turnover ratio has really been unreal…I just know the numbers and they have been really off the chart.” 

Coming into the tournament, Northside was ranked #3 in Group 3A. Besides beating Lake Taylor in the finals, the Vikes knocked off #1 Spotswood and #4 Tunstall in the postseason, so the Vikings earned everything they’ve achieved this year. Viking Junior Guard 12 Cy Hardy spoke after the game about not receiving the respect he thought the Vikings had earned, “I don’t know if they (Lake Taylor) knew, but we won last year. Yeah, we won (the state) last year.” Last year’s experience showed up early and often as the Vikings battled a much bigger opponent in the paint.

Lake Taylor won the tip and took the early lead, but Northside kept pace. After quarter one, it was still tied 12 apiece. The Titans had more field goal attempts but Northside shot a higher percentage from the floor (NS/55% to LT/40%) and led from the three point line (2/5 vs 0/1). As a matter of fact, Lake Taylor finished the night 0-12 from behind the arc. A rough night shooting from long distance, but credit the Viking defense for challenging those three point attempts with a feisty ‘D’. 

It stayed tight in the second quarter. Northside was up one going into the half, 26-25. Lake Taylor wanted to push the ball and the tempo, but Northside Guard 12 Cy Hardy was having none of that. The Junior made the going tough for the Titan guards. Moving the ball quickly up the floor wasn’t happening, as Hardy and his teammates forced them to slow down and protect the ball all the way up the court. Controlling the tempo was a big part of the Viking’s success. In the quarter, Lake Taylor 6’8 big man Forward 11 Elijah Washington picked up his second foul on a charging call drawn by Senior Viking F 21 Nick Leftwich. If the Northside scouting report tells you anything, it’s that Leftwich is the all time Northside leader on taking defensive charges. He finished his career with 89 charges drawn. That’s a stat that gets overlooked many times. With Washington sitting on the pine, Northside faired better on the boards. 

The start of the second half may have been the Viking’s best quarter of the year. Coach Pope liked what he saw. “I think once we got to halftime, we came out and had just an unreal third quarter. Cy was really starting to see things beautifully, doing what he does, scoring and finding open guys.” F 23 Mykell Harvey was also a force all night, topping everyone on the court in point production by nearly double with 27 points. G 12 Hardy finished with 17, and Senior F 10 David Via kicked in with 13 for the Vikes. Via and Harvey both hit deep threes to make the score 36-31 with five and a half minutes left in the third. When Crawford added a three after a time out, the Northside run was in full swing. The Vikings pushed their lead to fifteen, but with :16 left in the quarter, Hardy hit the deck in front of the scorers table with a leg cramp and left for the locker room. Lake Taylor had to feel like this was an opportunity to make up ground at the end of the third, down eleven, 54-43. 

Harvey moved to the point replacing Hardy, and F 22 Kristrion Ward replaced him on the court. Ward made the most of his entry into the game, coming off the bench and nailing a ‘three.’ Pope liked his team’s shot selections all night. “If we pass the ball well. We will get open looks, and we will score a lot points. Let’s get that extra pass. Let’s get that really good shot, and then just take it.” Lake Taylor whittled the Northside lead down to ten, but Hardy returned briefly to the floor and the Vikes pushed it back to fifteen with 1:57 left. Titan F 11 Washington fouled out with an overly aggressive play and half of the Lake Taylor twin towers was done for the night. He finished the game as the Titan’s leading scorer with 15. The other ‘tower,’ F 00 Rodney Baines, chipped in with 12, as did G 1 Aaron Elliott. G/F 5 Shahide Battle netted 11, before being ejected for fighting with less than a minute left in the game.

Lake Taylor never gave up and kept coming after Northside, but the game turned rough with some hard fouls. With tempers flaring, both benches cleared as a physical foul on Hardy at mid court sent him airborne. With less than a minute left, one Lake Taylor coach was tossed as well as G/F 5 Shahide Battle. “Both teams were competing hard. We just wanted to finish the game. They play really hard and I respect that,” said Pope. Once the melee was brought under control, the teams returned to the court. Harvey hit two foul shots, and then added one of two on the Lake Taylor technical foul. Add to that, the Vikings got the ball, and Harvey just dribbled near half court as time ran out. The Viking faithful broke out into celebration. 

Pope never doubted his team even with Lake Taylor’s huge size advantage down low. Pope leaned on a couple of his Seniors, 6’2” F 10 Via and 5’11” F 21 Crawford to make Lake Taylor’s Senior big men, 6’8 F 00 Rodney Baines and 6’8” F 11 Elijah Washington, work for everything they got. The Titans outpaced the Vikings in points in the paint, 48-20, and second chance buckets, 25-4. But Northside scored more off turnovers, 14-11, and doubled up the Titans on fast break points, 28-14. That last stat probably surprised most in attendance. 

Coach Pope talked about preparing for this challenge, “We were a little shaky in the first half. Just the nature of everything. You can try and watch film, but live there is that last 20% where you need to make adjustments. We put in about 80% of game plan and then that last 20% is what’s on the floor. Viking forwards Via and Crawford were not intimidated. Via talked about the opportunity, “We have seen big guys all year. We just knew coming in we needed to pound the boards.” Crawford, a battler to the end was also up to the test, “The whole week we worked on boxing out and matching their physicality.” They matched it and more. The Northside story this year is a good one. Senior F/G 32 Kai Logan, who contributed 8, was key to this year’s Viking postseason run including tonight. He was really the guy in the Tunstall game(s) that got hot early. 

Coach Pope prepares his teams to work hard and then gives them the freedom to play. “It doesn’t work unless they work. And they have done that. Two years ago these guys were beaten on a last second shot in the state semis, and then we won it last year and this year.” Northside graduates three Senior starters – Logan, Via, and Crawford- but their two biggest threats, Hardy and Harvey, return for their Senior year in 2024-25. 

But this year’s group was a special one, “I think one of the things that makes them so special, whether we were a big favorite or in a tough game like tonight, they never overlooked anyone. They came out to play…bringing it hard every night,” said Pope.

Scoring: Northside – Mykell Harvey 27, Cy Hardy 17, David Via 13, Kai Logan 8, Nick Crawford 3, Kristrion Ward 3, Josiah Keene 2 Lake Taylor – Elijah Washington 15, Rodney Baines 12, Aaron Elliott 12, Shahide Battle 11, Montonio Flowers 4, Triston Skipwith 2,  Jamari Edwards 2

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