Kinston relishes underdog role in showdown with Farmville Central

Kinston relishes underdog role in showdown with Farmville Central

Curtis Hines talks with Kinston’s girls basketball team during Thursday’s practice. The Vikings are playing in their second straight regional finals, this time against Farmville Central, in hopes of making it to the state title game for the first time since 2015. Photo by Junious Smith III / Neuse News

There’s a team riding a 20-game winning streak and headed to a second straight Eastern regional finals … and it’s considered the underdog.

For Kinston, that’s the reality heading to Saturday’s matchup against Farmville Central at ECU in girls’ basketball. The Jaguars have earned their accolades and although the team hasn’t been to the NCHSAA 2A final four since 2006 — when the team won it all — Farmville Central will come into Minges Coliseum with record of 26-0. The Jaguars have dominated all competition, winning all but one game by double digits (a 64-59 victory over North Lenoir Dec. 5) and beating their last 16 opponents by 20 or more.

Although the Vikings haven’t been as dominant, experience could play an advantage Saturday.  

“Every girl except one on our team has been there and played,” Kinston coach Christopher Bradshaw said. “You can tell someone how the environment is, but it’s much different when you’re on the floor. The only difference for us is we’re wearing green instead of white (as the ‘road’ team).”

Former Kinston basketbal star Curtis Hines works with the team during practice and said last year’s 71-51 defeat to eventual champion North Pitt will motivate the Vikings Saturday.

“They know what the environment is like and they had the experience of not coming out with a win last year,” Hines said. “They’ve worked toward getting back and going further all season and I don’t see them as the underdog.

“I know Farmville Central is a great team, but I know these girls will be ready.”

Kinston guard Lesley Sutton said the team has to play to its full potential Saturday and shouldn’t be affected by the ambiance of Minges.

“Last year, everything was new to us and we were a bit overwhelmed by the environment,” Sutton said. “This year, we know what to expect and as long as we play to our abilities, we’ll be alright.”

Vikings guard Quiaira Powell said the biggest focus won’t be on offense.

“We’ve got to do a great job and play harder on defense,” Powell said. “They’ve got some good handlers, and we have to be ready to stop them.”

Kinston nearly lost the opportunity to play in its second straight regionals, but a last-second 3-pointer by Zykia Andrews gave the Vikings a thrilling 48-47 victory over Thomasville Ledford in the fourth round Tuesday. Bradshaw said the game, along with other tough matches early in the season, will be beneficial as well.

“We looked at (the fourth round) as a grind-out game,” Bradshaw said. “The girls had no quit in them, which is a testament to the team and how hard they play. We have a lot of veterans who understand the moment and when you look at some of the games we played, it’s prepared us. During our five-game losing streak, we played tremendous teams like Heritage, Leesville Road and Jacksonville, who had not only some of the best guards in the state, but the country.

“At the end of the day, we’re the underdog so there’s no pressure. We’re just going to go out there Saturday and have a good time on the court.”

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