Northern Guilford’s 6-3 sophomore center Elissa Cunane provided 19 points and 17 rebounds Thursday as the No. 12-seeded Nighthawks ended Eastern No. 5 Chapel Hill’s string of N.C. High School Athletics Association 3A state finals appearances by upsetting the Tigers 64-49 on their home court.
Sami Furlough added 13 points and Kassie Robakiewicz 12 for Northern Guilford (22-7), which won for the first time in four tries against Chapel Hill and advanced to the third round of the NCHSAA’s 3A playoffs for the fourth straight year.
The Nighthawks’ win was also the 200th career coaching victory for Northern Guilford’s Kim Furlough.
“Finally,” said Furlough, Sami’s mother. “We’ve been trying to get this one for a long time.”
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Senior Autumn West, the Tigers’ only returning starter from last year’s NCHSAA 3A state finalists, scored a game-high 22 points in her final game for Chapel Hill (22-6).
Cunane, on her way to her 20th double-double of the year, had 12 points and seven rebounds in a see-saw first half. Her shot from the right corner with 31 seconds left in the quarter put Northern Guilford up 36-34. West answered with a basket down low in the paint and drew a free throw, which she hit to put Chapel Hill in front for the last time, at 37-36.
Northern Guilford started the second half with 7-0 run, helped by Chapel Hill center Ti’Mia Chaplin drawing her fourth foul just 2 minutes and 8 seconds into the third quarter. The Nighthawks hit three of four 3-point tries in the third as they pulled ahead 51-40.
Chapel Hill never got any closer than 52-47 in the fourth quarter, helped by consecutive baskets by West.
Chapel Hill power forward Alliyah Chaplin, the only other Tiger besides her sister Ti’Mia who could keep Cunane off the boards, got her fourth and fifth foul just 10 seconds apart, fouling out with 5:02 left on the clock.
Sami Furlough – who was 3-for-4 on 3-point attempts in the second half – helped the Nighthawks close the game with a 12-2 run.
Northern eventually ended with a 27-19 edge in rebounds, the only time in the post-season that Chapel Hill was beaten on the glass.
The Nighthawks were eliminated in last year’s third round by eventual undefeated state champion Hickory. Before that, they had lost three straight times to Chapel Hill, including a 67-65 loss in the 3A’s fourth round to Chapel Hill’s undefeated state champions in 2013.
Tuesday’s loss ended a streak of 10 straight wins this year for Chapel Hill, which included a sweep of the second-half of its Big-8 Conference schedule and a sixth straight conference tournament championship.
“This was a tough loss for the seniors, especially Autumn and Mariah (Jacobs),” Chapel Hill coach Sherry Norris said. “We lost more games this year (6) than we had in the previous three years (5 total).”