Chapel Hill: Sports

Girls basketball: Chapel Hill gets off to a fast start

Wildcat Kayla Merriweather (left), Chapel Hill’s Essi Raeisaenen (center) and  Joy Stouffer (right) all scramble for a loose ball Friday at East Chapel Hill. The Tigers won the game 69-32.
Wildcat Kayla Merriweather (left), Chapel Hill’s Essi Raeisaenen (center) and Joy Stouffer (right) all scramble for a loose ball Friday at East Chapel Hill. The Tigers won the game 69-32. JIM KENNY

Despite the loss of two all-conference players from last season’s state champions, Chapel Hill has barely missed a step in girls basketball. The Tigers are 2-0 after two runaway victories, including Friday night’s 69-32 win at East Chapel Hill.

Friday’s win extended Chapel Hill’s winning streak to 34 straight games.

“I thought our girls played extremely well,” Chapel Hill head coach Sherry Norris said after Friday’s win, which employed a running clock for most of the final quarter after CHHS went up 60-20.

Chapel Hill starts a season for the first time in four years without 6-3 Catherine Romaine (now at Bucknell) and sharp-shooting guard Jamella Smith (S.C. State). But Norris is back as head coach at Chapel Hill after retiring as an elementary school teacher last April.

Chapel Hill returned plenty of talent from last year’s 32-0 team, including top-scorer Raziyah Farringon (12.9 ppg last year) and Autumn West (10.1 ppg, 4.9 rpg). But there still were some preseason worries.

Romaine and Smith were Chapel Hill’s top two rebounders, and Norris wondered during the off-season how to replace them. Her worries faded after seeing Essi Raeisaenen, a 6-0 junior exchange student from Finland, plus the arrival of Alliyah and Ta’Mia Chaplin.

“ We’re blessed to have Essi come here from Finland. She has great fundamentals and sets really good screens,” Norris said. “Alliyah and Ta’Mia are two more big players we didn’t know we were going to have. When I arrived for the first day of practice and saw the two of them, I thought. ‘We’re going to be in good shape.’”

Chapel Hill won 60-27 Tuesday night at 4A Northern Durham, led by Alliyah Chaplin’s 11 points and 10 rebounds. Senior Tamia Eatmon chipped in 8 steals and 8 assists.

Friday, Alliyah Chaplin contributed 11 points and Ta’Mia 9, while Farrington led the scoring with 15 points. Farrington scored 11 in the game’s first 10 minutes, sparking Chapel Hill to 23-9 lead that ballooned to 38-12 late in the first half.

“Our players have good one-on-one moves, and if they can take their defender to the basket and score, then that’s what they should do,” Norris said. “And they did it well tonight.”

Chapel Hill forced East Chapel Hill into eight turnovers in its first 17 possessions, leading to 12 points in transition during the game’s first quarter. The Tigers also were 8-for-8 from the free throw line in the first half, while East was 2-for-2.

Ali Cyr-Scully led East Chapel Hill (1-1) with her 15 points – 10 coming in the game’s last 10 minutes – and T.J. Johnson scored 14.

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