After trailing for the first time in the post-season, top-seeded and undefeated Chapel Hill used defense and balanced scoring to get past No. 9 seed Northern Guilford, 58-34, in the third round of NCHSAA 3A East girls basketball.
Jamella Smith scored a game-high 19 points to pace four players in double figures for Chapel Hill (29-0). Jessica Wall added 13, 11 in the second half points, while Raziyah Farrington and 6-/foot-2 center Catherine Romaine each added 10 as Chapel Hill eliminated Northern Guilford (21-6) from the tournament for a third straight year.
“This is the best team of the three times we’ve played them,” Nighthawk coach Kim Furlough said.
Friday’s win puts Chapel Hill in a regional semifinal Tuesday in Fayetteville’s Crown Coliseum against No. 9 Union Pines, which defeated Rocky Mount 62-56.
Romaine, still on the mend after turning an ankle in the Big Eight tournament semifinals Feb. 21 against Cardinal Gibbons, did most of the work Friday in containing Northern Guilford’s prolific post player Aliyah Grinage. After scoring 1,370 points for her career, Grinage scored right at her average 15 points to lead the Nighthawks. Kasey Johnson chipped in 10 as Northern Guilford’s nine-game losing streak was snapped.
“She (Grinage) is a really tough, aggressive player,” Romaine said. “I just did my best to shut her down and make them hit outside shots.”
Grinage and Johnson each scored 4 points in the game’s first 4 minutes to help Northern take an 8-2 lead. The Tigers then forced six turnovers on the Nighthawk’s next nine possessions. Chapel Hill went up 13-9 as Smith scored 7 points in a 9-0 run to end the first quarter.
In the second quarter, Chapel Hill held Northern to 2-for-12 shooting from the field, while Farrington hit 3 of 5 to help the Tigers take a 24-17 halftime lead.
“Northern Guilford got off to a really good start, but once our girls settled in, they took control of the game,” Chapel Hill coach Sherry Norris said. “We had a tremendous second half. Jessica played outstanding, and Jamella played out of this world.”
Chapel Hill outscored Northern 11-2 in the first 7 minutes of the second half, and Wall punctuated the third quarter with a running one-hander from 22 feet to put the Tigers up 40-21. They led by as much as 21 points in the fourth quarter before clearing their bench.