FAYETTEVILLE — Hillsborough Orange cashed in on a balanced attack and got its running game going to hold off West Brunswick 69-56 in a 3A Eastern Regional semifinal win Wednesday night at Crown Coliseum.
The Panthers, the number one seed in the East, will face Wilson Hunt in the regional finals on Saturday at 2 p.m. The 24-3 Warriors were seeded second in the East and defeated Havelock 68-60 to get to the regional championship game.
Hunt led 19-13 after the first quarter and kept the lead the rest of the game. The Warriors were led by junior Josh Willinghams 18 points and 12 rebounds. Justin Jefferson scored 17, and Quan Kent added 10.
Havelock sophomore Kyran Bowman led all scorers with 30 points.
Orange got off to a quick start against the Trojans behind 5-foot-8 sophomore point guard Eryk Brandon-Dean, who had six assists, six steals, and 10 points at halftime as the Panther led 37-22. The Panthers also took advantage of 15 first-half turnovers by the Trojans.
Weve played like that all year, Orange coach Greg Moxley said of the uptempo pace. Weve got guys who usually shoot better than they did tonight, but Eryk puts a lot of pressure on the other teams guards, and we rely on that.
West Brunswick gained the momentum late in the third quarter and pulled to within 49-43 entering the final period. The Trojans rally continued in the fourth quarter as they dominated the boards and cut the lead to 49-47 before J.D. Brooks ended the Panthers scoring drought with two free throws with 5 minutes, 11 seconds to play.
Brooks points started a 20-9 run to wrap up the win.
We knew coming in that they wanted to play like us, fast, Moxley said. And we had to get back on defense. And I kept telling the guys they had to rebound.
The Trojans ended up with a huge advantage of 42-19 on the boards.
Brandon-Dean ended the game with 16 points, 8 assists and 7 steals. Jawan Chambers led the winners with 18 points, followed by Brooks with 16 and Keegan Crabtree with 10.
Zarie Hankins topped West Brunswick with 11 points.