FAYETTEVILLE — Chapel Hill freshman Autumn West capped a game-changing performance by putting in the winning basket in the Tigers’ 67-65 double-overtime win Thursday against Northern Guilford at Fayetteville Crown Coliseum.
The win vaults coach Sherry Norris’ 28-1 team into the N.C. High School Athletic Association 3A Eastern Regional championship game Saturday afternoon against either West Craven or Eastern Wayne.
West, a 5-foot-7 reserve post player, ended the game with 19 points and 14 rebounds. Her biggest shot came as the game ended, though.
With the score 65-65, Chapel Hill had the ball under its own basket with 2.9 seconds to play in the second overtime. West broke down the lane, took the inbounds pass from Jamella Smith and tossed a high arching shot off the backboard that ended the season for the Nighthawks (29-2).
“We’ve run that play several times this year and she’s been open,” Norris said of West. “We’re looking for (Catherine Romaine) to screen for Raziyah (Farrington), but teams see that and take it away and Autumn is able to get the ball. She’s just a freshman and that’s a big shot for a freshman to make. She played so well tonight. She really got after it.”
Northern Guilford jumped ahead 10-2, but Chapel Hill battled back to take a 28-26 halftime lead. From that point, the lead bounced back and forth.
“We got down but didn’t lose our composure and stayed with it,” Norris said. “And Cat had two fouls and Laura Musalem had three in the first half. And Laura is our energizer bunny on defense and does so many things well. But Autumn and the other reserves came in and gave us good minutes.”
The score was 42-42 after three quarters and Chapel Hill got to overtime on a free throw by Smith with eight seconds left in regulation that tied the score at 55.
The first overtime ended as Smith grabbed a rebound when Northern Guilford missed the last shot.
In the second overtime, Romaine, a 6-2 junior, and Smith, another junior, each hit two free throws.
Free throws were vital for the Tigers. They hit 18 of 24, compared to the Nighthawks’ 10-for-23.
Smith knew her team and West could meet the challenge after falling behind a team like Northern Guilford, with Amanda Coffer, who led the state in blocked shots.
“We didn’t play scared, we had heart and we never gave up,” Smith said. “And then Autumn came in and picked up where we left off. We have confidence in everybody.”
Farrington scored 15 for the winners and Romaine added 10 points, 13 rebounds, and she blocked four shots. Smith added 13 points.
Gabby Boyd topped Northern Guilford with 22 points, followed by Aliyah Grinage with 13 and Nya Moore with 11.
“I’m proud of our team, of the effort,” Nighthawks coach Kim Furlough said. “It was a special group.”