Beating any team three times in one season is never easy and Northeast boys basketball coach John Barbour would not beg to differ.

However, last night the second-seeded Eagles did just that as they hung on to defeat third-seeded Southern of Harwood, 63-62, in the Class 2ARegion III semifinals.

"Our team showed an awful lot of character tonight," said Barbour, whose Eagles escaped with a narrow 72-71 win earlier in the year. "A lot of teams would have folded under the pressure, but they made the big plays and hit the key free throws. It is tough to beat a team three times, and we just barely won this one."

Leading the way for Northeast (14-7) was guard Steve Strauss. The 6-foot-3 senior tallied32 points, including four three-pointers to lead the Eagles into Friday's 6 p.m. semifinal matchup at Prince George's Community College.

The big story in the first half was Northeast's ability to containSouthern shooting guard Vince Barnett. Barnett, who entered the gameas the county's second-leading scorer, averaging 22.9 points per game, was held to three points in the first half -- all from the foul line.

Southern senior point guard Clayton Pinkney, who led the Bulldogs with 28 points in Monday's 82-56 quarterfinal rout of Chopticon, took up the slack for Barnett and tallied 11 points before the intermission.

The Bulldogs (13-11) came out running in the fourth quarter and quickly manufactured an 8-0 run that tied the game at 49-49 with 6 minutes, 39 seconds remaining. Playing with four personal fouls, Barnett engineered the run, scoring five points and assisting teammate Alvin Gross on another.

Southern pulled to within two of the Eagles, 61-59, following an NBA-style three-pointer, but with time running out, the Bulldogs' fate was determined on the foul line.

Northeast forward Craig Everett responded by burying both ends of a one-and-one.

With three seconds left on the clock, Southern's Terrel Jones put up a desperation shot from about 20 feet, only to have it fall short.

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