JACKSONVILLE — This wasn’t Northside’s final home basketball game, but it sure as well felt like it.
Moments after the final seconds ticked away in the Monarchs’ 89-63 win over Fairmont on Saturday night in the third round of the NCHSAA 2-A playoffs, coach Tony Marshburn invited his players to remain in the gym to celebrate with fans.
Northside had finally defeated the Golden Tornadoes (25-5) after losing big leads to Fairmont in East Regional semifinal games in 2013 and 2015.
“I’m so happy for our guys,” Marshburn said. “They know the past history. I had some former players text me today and go ‘Coach you got to get them. It’s Fairmont. You got to beat them.”
And the second-seeded Monarchs (27-0) did to advance to Tuesday’s regional semifinal at home against third-seeded Clinton (27-2), which beat No. 22 Ayden-Grifton 62-55 on Saturday.
Gabe Kirkendoll led the Monarchs with 20 points, 10 rebounds and 6 assists. The junior scored eight third-quarter points to withstand a Fairmont rally. Senior Zach Hobbs added 26 points, including 11 in the fourth quarter while Kenny Dye added 13 points, 7 rebounds and 7 assists. Jason Mixon had 11 points and Mike Satterfield added 10 for the Monarchs.
Julius Caulder led the Golden Tornadoes with 14 points and 10 rebounds. He made four 3-pointers, including three in the third quarter. Teammate Jarique Moore added 13 points and 8 rebounds.
Besides the outcome, this victory was reminiscent to the Monarchs’ losses to the Golden Tornadoes, who rallied to win both games in 2013 and 2015.
Northside built a 46-26 second-quarter lead, but Fairmont pulled to within 60-52 with 56 seconds left in the third quarter on a 3-pointer by Julius Caulder. But the Monarchs responded by getting a putback by Jason Mixon and a layup by Gabe Kirkendoll with five seconds remaining in the third quarter to take a 64-52 lead.
Kaheem Pittman scored on a layup with 4:29 left in the game to pull the Golden Tornadoes to within 75-63, but the Monarchs scored the game’s final 14 points to pull away.
“This is a great moment,” Hobbs said. “They put us out of the playoffs two times and coach wanted us to go hard and get revenge. We got it together and came in and just did the job and did what we had to do.”
A jump shot by Satterfield capped a 10-0 Northside run late in the second quarter that gave the Monarchs a 46-26 lead.
But Fairmont didn’t back down after halftime. The Tornadoes scored 14 of the first 21 points of the third quarter to get to within 54-42. Fairmont got several open layups against Northside’s pressure.
“They were leaking a guy and we were too slow getting back in transition,” Marshburn said. “We were running but weren’t finding were our man was.”
The game was delayed near the start of Fairmont’s run when the gym lights turned off. After about a 15 minute delay, the game resumed.
“We do a little thing called score, stop score so right after the lights went out I said ‘Guys, remember in practice when we do this drill?’ I said ‘This is where it comes into play.’ It didn’t happen right then, but a few minutes later we scored, got a stop and scored and that 4-0 run at the end of the third quarter put us up 12.”