Northside High School has long been synonymous with consistent boys basketball success.
In the past 10 seasons, the boys program has reached the state quarterfinals nine times, the Top 28 five times and has two state championship game appearances, including winning the 2006 Class 4A crown.
“When you look up and see those banners it is humbling,” junior guard Brandon Ellis said. “It is an honor to wear this uniform.”
With two games remaining in the regular season, Northside finds itself fighting to keep that legacy alive. Northside is 13-14 overall heading into Tuesday’s home District 5-4A game against Teurlings Catholic and was ranked No. 27 in last week’s power rankings.
“Right now, our lives are on the line,” first-year head coach Ross Rix said. “We are down but not dead yet.”
A lack of experience and height could be attributed to the Vikings’ up-and-down season. The team features only two seniors and has only a few players who earned any real experience on last year’s state semifinalist squad. In addition, the team lacks height as only two players exceed the 6-foot-3 mark.
Despite those limitations, Northside started off the season winning nine of its first 12 games, including producing a six-game winning streak. The Vikings though would struggle once district play began by losing six of their first eight games.
“We got off to a good start,” said Rix, who replaced Devan Clark, who left for Southern Lab in the summer. “We went out and beat some teams that people didn’t think we could beat like Port Allen when they were still undefeated. But then we lost some close games come district. We are probably five or six possessions from being a Top 10 team.”
How close? Northside has lost five district games by five points or less, including a 46-43 defeat to St. Thomas More in which they led in the fourth.
“I believe that it is a blessing,” said Ellis who leads the team at 14 points per game. “When you go through adversity, it really shows your character. This will only help us this week and next year.”
“Losses like that can be heartbreaking,” junior guard Darius Randell said. “You work so hard and then to lose by one or two points is tough. But we just have to get back in the gym and work even harder. We have other games to play.”
The strength of District 5-4A means there is a still good chance that Northside would still earn a playoff berth even if the Vikings fail to win their final two games. Northside ends the regular season on Friday at St. Thomas More.
Regardless of where the Vikings may land in a week, Rix is confident that his team will be a difficult opponent for whoever draws them.
“We will be a tough 28 or 29 seed,” Rix said. “I can guarantee you that.”