CHAPEL HILL — Young but still raw Southern Guilford was half-beaten before the first jump ball Friday at Chapel Hill.
“When I first walked into the gym and saw all those people, my first thought was ‘Oh Lord,’ ” Southern Guilford coach William Whitaker said after his team was beaten 64-38 by the Tigers. “We were intimidated, nervous, scared. That’s the only way I can sum it up.”
The Storm had never reached the third round of the N.C. High School Athletics Association Class 3A girls’ basketball playoffs before Friday. Without a senior among its starters, Southern Guilford (14-14) was over-matched against an experienced Chapel Hill team (27-1) that was looking to return to the 3A regionals next week in Fayetteville.
“Going back to Fayetteville is like déjà vu, but better, because we’re more confident than we were last year,” Chapel Hill senior Laura Musalem said. “We tried not to make too big a deal out of that or that it was our last home game. We just tried to focus on the game.”
Playing in a packed Alumni Gym didn’t help the visitors. A boisterous crowd, much of it from Oxford, arrived early to prepare for the Chapel Hill-Webb boys’ game, featuring North Carolina recruit Isaiah Hicks. At least 100 fans were turned away at the door by the time the girls were underway.
“It’s exciting for the girls to play in front of a crowd like that. It’s what tournament basketball should be,” Chapel Hill coach Sherry Norris said. “They know the crowd is there for the boys, but it’s still an opportunity to showcase what they can do.”
No. 3 in the News & Observer’s rankings and seeded No. 2 in the 3A East, Chapel Hill overwhelmed 11th-seeded Southern Guilford with defensive pressure, forcing 25 turnovers and blowing by The Storm for easy transition baskets.
“I told our players that a team that can withstand pressure and plays aggressive can’t be beat,” Whitaker said. “That’s exactly what Chapel Hill did to us tonight. I don’t know what you can do to prepare for a team like that.”
Chapel Hill’s Raziyah Farrington scored 10 points in the first half to pace the Tigers to a 31-9 halftime lead and ended up with 16 points for the game. Catherine Romaine recorded a double-double of 16 points and 10 rebounds as Chapel Hill won its 16th straight. Tamia Eatmon chipped in 10 points.
Southern Guilford was led by 6-foot-4 ninth-grader Kelena Morris, who had 14 points, 15 rebounds and five blocks. Junior Hailey Chandler added 10 points, hitting three 3-pointers.
“She (Morris) was the toughest opponent I’ve had to deal with in the post,” said Romaine, who gave up an inch and at least 10 pounds to The Storm’s center. “It’s hard to box her out and keep her off the boards.”
Chapel Hill had won its previous four games by an average of 44.5 points. In the first 20 minutes Friday, the Tigers looked as if they’d easily hit that mark by jumping to a 25-4 lead. Southern Guilford went without a field goal for 11 minutes, 22 seconds midway through the first half.
Morris proved to be a bigger defensive presence in the second half and scored 10 of her points in the final 9:44, while Chapel Hill played its reserves for most of the final quarter.
“She settled down and played better late,” Whitaker said. “But she really was terrified of the crowd the whole game.”