Tigers deserved better

04/04/2014 9:57 PM

04/04/2014 9:58 PM

Congratulations are in order for Sherry Norris, the veteran Chapel Hill High School coach who last week was named the Associated Press girls basketball coach of the year.

But AP voters shouldn’t expect enthusiastic thanks from the Tigers.

They didn’t select a single Chapel Hill player to the all-state basketball team.

Norris earned her award by guiding the Tigers this year to their second state girls basketball championship.

She didn’t do that with a team full of pelicans. She had good players.

This year’s team was led by seniors Catherine Romaine and Jamella Smith, while juniors Raziyah Farrington and Tamia Eatmon also shone for Chapel Hill.

Playing on a team that set a school record for wins, Eatmon became the first Tiger to record a triple double in points (16), assists 10) and steals (13). Romaine, Smith and Farrington took turns winning MVP or Most Outstanding Player honors in holiday and post-season tournaments.

A good coach without players is a textbook example of frustration. Good players without a good coach can produce results anywhere from tragic to comic.

Norris herself noted last week that she had teams go 0-20 and 1-19 in back-to-back years before the arrival of Romaine and Smith.

Both were four-year players for Norris, and neither ever had to endure a losing season. Their last three years together, Smith and Romaine played on teams that had a combined 89-5 record. They reached the state semifinals in 2012, the finals in 2013 and ran the table in 2014 – going 32-0 and winning the NCHSAA 3A championship.

Both deserved to be nominated on the AP ballot that went out to all media members in March. Had they played on other teams with lesser talent, Farrington and Eatmon probably would have deserved nominations as well.

Ultimately, writers in the Chapel Hill area opted to nominate the star seniors – Romaine and Smith.

And even that might have been a mistake.

Like Laurence Olivier and Michael Caine splitting Academy Award votes after brilliantly starring together in “Sleuth” – and neither one winning – Romaine and Smith clearly split votes, and neither got onto to the AP team.

Ironically, players on teams that Romaine and Smith help eliminate in the playoffs – like Hickory’s Dania Witherspoon and West Craven’s Jamie Cherry – were chosen by AP. They had flashier stats, and stood out more on teams that didn’t enjoy success equal to Chapel Hill’s.

“If Catherine or Jamella had played on teams with less talent, they would have had bigger stats and they probably would have been all-state,” Norris said.

As it is, they’ll just have to settle for a 32-0 year and a championship trophy.

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