Kylie Wade

Roanoke Rapids forward Kylie Wade (23) operates in the lane last week versus Northern Carolina 1A/2A rival Bunn. The junior and her teammates host undefeated St. Paul’s tonight at 6 p.m. in opening-round play of the N.C. High School Athletic Association 2A playoffs.

When reached by phone on Sunday to discuss his team’s opening-round matchup in this week’s N.C. High School Athletic Association 2A women’s basketball tournament, Roanoke Rapids head coach Jim Whitmire led with a healthy sense of confidence.

“This is the perfect opportunity for our girls to take the next step, by avenging the loss from last year,” Whitmire said of the task. “I’m looking forward to it.”

Call his demeanor run-it-back cool, if you will — inspired, perhaps, by a solid awareness of the Jackets’ opponent, St. Pauls (12-0).

Taking the aforementioned next step, however, will require the black-and-gold to stifle a Bulldog offense led by sophomore point guard Jakieya Thompson, who averages 16.4 points per game, and senior T.J. Eichelberger, who books 14.7 points and 7.5 boards per contest.

Additionally, there’s also finding a way to defend the Council twins, Taliya and Tamyra, who have registered a combined 16.7 points and 15.5 rebounds per outing this season.

As tasks go, not easy, but one Whitmire believes his troupe — spurred by an experienced roster that hasn’t forgotten the sting of last year’s 59-34, first-round loss to Big Blue — is more than equipped to handle.

“We match up with them almost identically,” Whitmire said of the rosters. “Their twins are 6 feet tall, my twins are 6 feet tall … three of the starting five are in double digits, the other two are just right behind that — same situation for me, in my starting five, as far as scoring goes.”

What remains to be seen, however, is what happens tonight at 6 p.m., and whether the Roanoke Rapids (9-1) contingent of Logan Abram, Ella King and the Wade sisters — Rylie, Kylie and Skyler — can defend as well as it did to close last week’s winner-take-all showdown with Bunn, when the Wildcats could muster but a point over the final four minutes of regulation.

If so, Whitmire and Co. can script plans for Thursday’s second round, where the North Lenior-McMichael winner awaits.

Daily Herald Preps Report

Pungo Christian outlasts Northeast Academy

BELHAVEN — Sophomore guard Abbey Cutler scored 16 points on Saturday to lead Pungo Christian Academy past Northeast Academy, 60-52, in third-round play of the N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association 1A women’s basketball tournament.

Riley Cutler and Lauren Kellie Ricks also played well for PCA (14-1), scoring 14 and 12 points, respectively.

Emalee Jones paced Northeast with a game-high 19 points, while Jessie Martin finished with 15 points. Allie Liverman also played well for Big Red, netting 10 points.

Pungo returns to the office this week against the Greenfield-Halifax Academy winner, while NEA finished the 2020-2021 campaign with a 7-5 overall mark.