RALEIGH — Chapel Hill assistant girls basketball coach John French called out to his team time and again on Wednesday night, “Attack! Attack!”
That order was obeyed time and again by the undefeated Tigers in a 67-43 win against Cardinal Gibbons.
Chapel Hill (16-0, 7-0), ranked No. 1 in the News & Observer area rankings, now leads No. 9 Cardinal Gibbons (13-4, 6-1) by a game halfway through the Big Eight 3A Conference schedule.
“We’ve always been up-tempo,” said Chapel Hill sophomore Autumn West. “We don’t really slow things down except to get into control.”
The Tigers forced 11 steals on the Gibbons ballhandlers thanks in large part to mixing up a 1-2-2 fullcourt press with some halfcourt trapping. But when the Crusaders didn’t turn it over, they got open looks thanks to the aggressive defense.
Gibbons hit seven 3-pointers.
“Thank goodness they didn’t hit all of them,” said Tigers head coach Sherry Norris. “That’s the gamble you take sometimes.”
While coaches bemoan “trading 2s for 3s,” Chapel Hill prevailed easily as its points off turnovers set up a different exchange. The Tigers gladly took a number of breakaway layups and surrendered some 3-point looks.
“When we played Southern (Durham) the other night, they had 11 3-pointers and we had one, but we won 80-52,” Norris said. “Our defense just creates so many opportunites.”
West had a game-high 24 points (12 rebounds, five steals) and Raziyah Farrington added 18.
Center Catherine Romaine and Jamella Smith each had seven rebounds.
The Tigers ended the first half on an 11-2 run to lead 37-22.
Gibbons was one of the few teams with enough athletes to play man-to-man against the Tigers, but even that had to change as Chapel Hill attacked the rim.
“We want people to play us man-to-man because we think we do better against that,” West said.
Stephanie Girard led Gibbons with 19 points while center Madison Beuris and Olivia Smith each added 10 points.
“We knew their defense leads to their offense. We spent time talking about going to meet the ball and trying to beat their pressure. Easier said than done,” coach Jessica Lowe said. “I’m sure we had more than 20 turnovers and I would bet almost all of them turned into points.”
The two sides will meet again in the regular-season finale at Chapel Hill. The Big Eight Conference girls basketball regular-season champ will host the conference tournament finals.
Blake: 919-460-2606; Twitter: @JMBpreps