FAYETTEVILLE — Oranges boys basketball team fell short in the N.C. High School Athletic Association 3A East final with a 66-60 loss to Wilson Hunt, and the stat sheet gave no obvious clues as to why it happened.
The teams were nearly even in rebounds (Orange 39-36) and turnovers (Orange 19-17) and both shot about the same from the field (Hunt 50-42.9) and free throw line (Hunt 72.7-68.8).
But one team had to be sent home in Saturdays game at the Crown Coliseum in Fayetteville and the Panthers wound up being it after advancing as far in the tournament since 1969.
We knew it was going to be a close game. It just came down to who could score the ball. I dont think we played a bad game, Orange coach Greg Motley said.
The only thing a stat sheet could show was that the game was played at a frenetic pace that played into the hands of Hunt. Both teams shot the ball at least 58 times.
Hunts full-court press forced 19 Orange turnovers, which would have been back-breaking except for the Panthers forcing 17 turnovers from Hunt.
Hunts pressure also disrupted the Panthers passing. In Oranges 69-56 semifinal win Wednesday against West Brunswick, 22 of the Panthers 24 field goals came off assists. Saturday, Orange made just nine assists on 22 baskets.
Both teams kept the pace going even as it caused the game to drift away from Orange in the third quarter just as it did Hunt when was down 9-0 to start the contest.
We just had some bad turnovers that were uncharacteristic of our guys. They put us under some pressure, Motley said.
The Panthers led Hunt 27-24 at halftime but the third quarter proved crucial as the Warriors went up 48-39 entering the fourth.
We just couldnt finish some shots and score the ball, Motley said.
Oranges Keegan Crabtree had a team-high 15 points. J.D. Brooks had 14 points and nine rebounds.
Orange point guard Eryk Brandon-Dean (12 points, five steals) and forward Jawan Chambers (12 points, eight rebounds) were named to the all-regional team.
Obviously its disappointing any time you come this far to be so close and still fall short of our goals, Crabtree said. But at the same time... its something to hang our hats on.
Blake: 919-460-2606; Twitter: @JMBpreps