CHAPEL HILL — Moments after the end of Chapel Hill’s 48-36 win Friday over Cardinal Gibbons, Tigers head coach Sherry Norris was feeling far from triumphant.
“They were torturing me out there,” Norris said wearily. “It was like our first state championship. The girls just wouldn’t finish them off and kept stringing it out.”
Ranked No. 4 by the News & Observer, Chapel Hill (23-1 overall, 10-0 conference) won its second straight Carolina-6 Conference title in girls’ basketball mostly thanks to its defense, sloppy as it was, and a 59-30 advantage in rebounding.
Jessica Wall led all scorers with 14 points for Chapel Hill.
Chapel Hill started its five seniors, most of whom were more used to coming off the bench, for their last regular-season game at home.
Cardinal Gibbons took an early 4-0 lead and still led 9-8 at the end of the first quarter. Three-pointers by Jamella Smith and Wall put Chapel Hill in front 14-11 early in the second quarter, and the Tigers scored the half’s last six points to pull away for good.
The Tigers held No. 10-ranked Cardinal Gibbons (18-5, 8-2) to a single field goal in the first half and 4-for-39 shooting for the game. The Crusaders stayed in the game by attempting as many free throws as field goals – going 28 for 39 at the line.
“We won, but I’m not happy at all,” Norris said. “We just kept fouling those girls.”
Chapel Hill’s mistakes included fouling Cardinal Gibbons’s Olivia Smith on a 3-point attempt with 32 seconds left. Smith drained all three free throws and ended up with five points – all from the line.
Morgan Reid led Cardinal Gibbons with 10 points, despite being held to just two in the second half.
“If we could have hit a few baskets, then this would have been a different game,” Cardinal Gibbons coach Jessica Lowe said. “But we didn’t miss all those shots by ourselves. They played fantastic defense.”
Lowe said the Crusaders at least succeeded in their mission to slow the tempo. Chapel Hill, which came into Friday averaging 70 points a game, was held to its lowest number of points in any win this year and the fewest since a 42-33 loss at North Nash.
Friday’s win was the Tigers’ 11th straight and guarantees them the No. 1 seed in next week’s Carolina-6 Conference tournament. Chapel Hill and No. 2-seeded Cardinal Gibbons get to sit out the first round and won’t play until Wednesday’s semifinals.