Struggling to make the North Carolina High School Athletics Association state basketball playoffs requires a two-edged sword.
In the case of Corinth Holders (11-15), the Pirates succeeded in their battle to reach the NCHSAA girls basketball tournament’s first round. But their reward was a return trip to the home court of three-time state finalist Chapel Hill (22-5), which has pulled off the perfecta of a regular-season and tournament championship in their conference five years running.
Tuesday night at Alumni Gym, junior Ti’Mia Chaplin scored 16 points to lead three other teammates in double digits, and the Tigers used an ultra-effective defense to shut down Corinth Holders as Chapel Hill rolled to a 62-32 victory in the NCHSAA East 3A’s first round.
Chapel Hill’s Autumn West scored nine points in the first half and ended up with 13, while teammate Mariah Jacobs had 12. Ti’Mia Chaplin’s sophomore sister, Alliyah Chaplin, scored 10 points before leaving the game with more than 11 minutes left to play after she received an accidental blow to the bridge of her nose.
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Shaniya Taylor scored 11 points for Corinth Holders. Maddy Gladwell and Samara Gibson, with eight points apiece, were the only other Pirates to get more than two points.
Corinth Holders coach Brandy Smith said the trip was worthwhile, nonetheless.
“Making the playoffs was a good thing,” Smith said. “It allowed this team to get some experience. We know what it feels like now, so when we come back in the preseason we’ll have a goal to work toward.”
Last year, Chapel Hill downed Corinth Holders 80-48 in an eastern third-round sectional game, and Chapel Hill head coach Sherry Norris had worried before Tuesday’s game that showing her players game film from 2015 would give them a false impression.
“I didn’t want them to think that this was going to be some easy game,” Norris said.
The Tigers took her encouragement to heart and pressed the Pirates early and often.
Chapel Hill scored 13 points off nine Pirate turnovers in the first 7 minutes to take an early 21-10 lead. By halftime, Corinth Holders had committed 12 turnovers and Chapel Hill zero as the Tigers led 41-24 by halftime.
Turnovers. Turnovers,” Corinth Holders’ Smith lamented. “Chapel Hill was dictating the pace of the game and we were falling right into their hands.”
Chapel Hill scored 20 points off its fast break in the first half – 18 of those following Corinth Holders turnovers – and picked up where it left off to start the second half. The Tigers outscored Corinth Holders 17-2 in the the third quarter to break the game wide open, with all of the Tigers’ points coming in transition or in the paint.
Corinth Holders went 8 minutes, 21seconds without a field goal in the second half as Chapel Hill opened up its biggest lead at 62-24, off a baseline jumper by Jacobs with 6:50 left on the clock. Chapel Hill emptied its bench after that.
“The great thing about this game for us was that we got to play everyone and we got everyone on lot of experience,” Norris said. “Any win in the playoffs is good. It was important tonight to establish chemistry and get a good rhythm and get that that first win under your belt.
“After tonight 16 teams in the East are going home , and we knew we didn’t want that to be us.”
Chapel Hill is schedule to host a second-round game Thursday against either No. 12-seeded Northern Guilford or No. 21 Wilson Fike.