Chapel Hill’s undefeated girls haven’t been in too many tight situations this season, but the Tigers had their hands full Friday night in the championship game of the Big Eight 3A tournament before posting a come-from-behind 48-38 win against Cardinal Gibbons.
Chapel Hill (26-0) already had the league’s No. 1 seed wrapped up and Gibbons (21-6) is the conference’s No. 2 seed in the state tournament, which starts Monday. Gibbons’ only two conference regular season losses came from the Tigers by 24 and 18 points.
But Friday night, Crusaders coach Jessica Lowe had her girls playing like they thought they could hang the first loss on the Tigers, who finished second in the state last year.
“Our mindset coming in was, ‘what do we have to lose?’ ” Lowe said. “I was proud of our girls. We fought hard, played physical and were aggressive. And we were able to handle their pressure for 31/2 quarters.
“But their man defense did get to us and we made too many mistakes and missed too many shots in the fourth quarter.”
Gibbons trailed 21-18 at halftime but took the lead in the third quarter behind the scoring of Morgan Reid and Olivia Smith. Chapel Hill trailed 34-29 entering the fourth quarter.
“Cardinal Gibbons is an outstanding team and they came at us with a very physical game,” Tigers coach Sherry Norris said. “Being challenged like that, our girls were mentally tough and stepped up. That is great going into the playoffs.”
Chapel Hill took the lead, 37-36, on two free throws by Raziyah Farrington with 2 minutes, 51 seconds to play and forced enough turnovers to pull away. Farrington hit four more free throws in the final minute and ended the game with 12 points. Jamella Smith led the winners with 18 and center Catherine Romaine scored 10 to give her 1,000 in her career.
Reid led Gibbons with 16 points.
The boys regular season champion, Orange, was not as fortunate, falling 67-53 to Southern Durham in a game that featured two teams that ran at every opportunity.
“We’ve played four games in five days and held our own,” Southern Durham coach Kendrick Hall said. “This is the only way I know how to play. But we had to beat a very disciplined Chapel Hill team to get to the championship game, which was a good win for us. And then we got to face a team that plays the same style as us. I like that.
“We’re a young team and we’ve gotten better during the season,” Hall said.
Orange still gets the league’s top seed in the state playoffs and Southern Durham (17-10) is second. Orange and Southern split their two regular season games.
Southern Durham trailed briefly in the first quarter, but Kendall Hinton’s two baskets at the end of the first quarter put the Spartans up 14-11 and they led the rest of the way. The lead was just 5, 45-40, entering the fourth quarter, but the Spartans posted 22 points in the final quarter to add to its lead.
Eryk Brandon-Dean and J.D. Brooks led Orange with 18 points each.
Senior Amari Hamilton led Orange with 26 points, followed by Hinton’s 16.
“Hamilton scores a lot, but he’s also our leader out there,” Hall said. “He’s been our leader since day one.”