Crosby kept pace with Northside throughout the first half until sophomore PJ Haggerty found his footing on the campus of Kingwood Park Friday.
When he did, the Panthers felt it.
Haggerty scored 19 of his game-high 33 in the second frame as the Cougars advanced to a regional quarterfinal date with Fort Bend Hightower in a 79-48 win. The game will be at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Delmar Fieldhouse in Houston.
The Hurricanes advanced with a 70-57 win over Port Arthur Memorial. Crosby was equally impressive, particularly late in the second quarter of its area playoff win.
After struggling early, Haggerty found his range and began lighting up the Northside defense with Jaylen Herman giving a helping hand. Herman was fouled on a made basket. An ensuing technical resulted in three Haggerty free throws to cap a 15-0 run for a 39-27 lead.
Crosby coach Edwin Egans said taking the lead into the half gave the team a much-needed boost.
“It gives you confidence, a little room for error,” he said. “We gave up a three, should have gone up 12 but went in up nine. We won the third, went up 16. That really helped us. It gave us the cushion where we could have a couple of bad possessions because they are going to force some turnovers, force some bad shots.”
Egans did have to roll the dice for Crosby to extend the lead in the third. Foul trouble was an issue and Northside was playing with an air of desperation. The full court pressure and relentless attack on the paint was taking somewhat of a toll. The Panthers were forcing turnovers but struggled to convert on shots and free throws.
Deniquez Dunn reentered the game with 1:55 left in the third quarter with four fouls and immediately settled Crosby down. He immediately navigated through the Northside pressure and found Haggerty open on the wing for a three. Haggerty followed with a steal and a lay-up to extend the lead from 12 to 17.
“We didn’t have a choice,” Egans said about putting Dunn back into the game in the third. “We needed another ball handler for the pressure they had had.
“He gave us that.”
In the fourth quarter, Crosby turned the game into a rout. Defensively, the Cougars backed out of its pressure into a zone. Northside has success early in the game from the perimeter but by the fourth, fatigue had set in. With their outside shot already sitting in the bus waiting to go home, the Panther’s fate was sealed.
Herman had l4 points with Dunn and Sean Elkington each finishing with eight at Crosby improved to 26-10.