Basketball coach Bill Walton knows his Chapel Hill team is still learning.
It’s not just that the Tigers are adapting to Walton’s style in his first year at Chapel Hill. There’s also the fact that some of Chapel Hill’s opponents in the Big Eight Conference have changed.
For example, Northwood’s Chargers stumbled out of the gate at the start of the basketball season, losing four of their first five games. But bolstered by the arrival of quarterback Ti Pinnix and eight of his teammates from Northwood’s excellent football program, the Chargers are an almost completely new team – one that runs the court and shoots well from the outside.
Northwood gave the Tigers a hard time before Chapel Hill claimed a 72-61 victory on Tuesday in the Big Eight opener for both teams.
“It was a tremendous win, a conference win,” Walton said. “I’m really proud of the way the team fought back and fought back and fought back.”
Playing 24 hours after a 61-58 loss to undefeated Jordan, Chapel Hill fell behind 20-10 early in the second quarter Tuesday before closing the half with a 17-7 run. The game was tied at 29-29 at halftime.
Brian Thorton, Jamil Walker and Ben Brower each hit a 3-pointer and Chapel Hill took the lead for good early in the second half. But Northwood was down just 57-51 with 5:15 to play.
The Chargers hit 6-of-12 3-pointers in the second half to stay close.
“They were launching all those threes,” Walton noted. “That was not part of the scouting report.”
Chapel Hill closed strong, scoring inside or at the line on eight straight possessions in the final minutes.
Northwood hit three 3-pointers in the fourth quarter – one each by Pinnix and fellow all-conference football lettermen Kadarus Rone and Jared Worley – to stay as close as it did.
Pinnix ended up with 19 points to lead all scorers, and Rone had 15 points. Worley and Chaz Bailey each scored 11, while Jalen Smith had 10.
Chapel Hill also showed remarkable balance, with Walker and Brower each scoring 14 points to lead six Tigers in double digits. Thornton added 13 and Arkavious Parks 12 points. Jeremy Werden and David Carraher each chipped in 10 points.
Carraher came within shouting distance of a triple-double, contributing 17 rebounds and seven assists, as well as deflecting several Charger passes and making four steals.
“David did a good job of bringing the ball down and dropping it off for a lot of good layups,” Walton said. “David, Arkavious and Jeremy Werden all did a good job on the boards.
“We got a lot of points off of offensive rebounds.”
Walton originally planned for his Tigers to stay in a packed zone as much as possible to conserve energy after Monday’s tough loss. But he repeatedly had to yell a lot of instructions to his players about where they should be on the court.
“We’ve had only two real practices since the football kids (like Parks, Jacob Guskiewicz and Albert Nyamayaro) joined the team,” said Walton, who assumed his present post in July. “We never had any summer practices together, and we’ve had limited practices with the entire team. They don’t know half the plays yet.”
Chapel Hill improved to 6-3 overall, 2-0 in Big Eight games, with a double-digit win at Oxford Webb on Thursday night.
The Tigers’ boys and girls basketball teams will take a break in their schedule until Jan. 6, when they resume with home games against Cedar Ridge.
Tigers top Northwood, give Webb first home loss
Tamia Eatmon, Raziyah Farrington and Alliyah Chaplin each scored 14 points Tuesday as the Chapel Hill girls team opened its Big Eight schedule with a 71-59 victory over Northwood.
Autumn West added 12 points and Jessica Wall 11 for Chapel Hill, which still hasn’t lost to a 3A team in more than a year.
Tuesday’s scoring was almost as balanced for Northwood (4-2, 0-1). Kristian Eanes had a game-high 19 points, followed by Shontai Totten and Bryn Ardt with 11 points each, and Jasmine Atkins with 10 points.
Chapel Hill twice opened up 10-point leads on Northwood, with the Chargers fighting back to within six points twice before the Tigers finally pulled away.
“Northwood is a very good, very talented team,” Chapel Hill coach Sherry Norris said. “They have good outside shooters. They take care of the ball; they don’t do a lot of things wrong, and they do a lot of little things right.”
Northwood was down by just 63-57 after Eanes hit her last basket with 3:20 left in Tuesday’s game. Farrington, a veteran of last year’s 32-0 Chapel Hill team who committed to Western Carolina earlier this semester, took over down the stretch. She scored five of Chapel Hill’s last eight points.
Northwood missed four of its last five shots and turned over two of its last five possessions.
“No moral victory here. You never like losing a conference game,” Northwood coach Cameron Vernon said.
“Chapel Hill is a really good basketball team. They knew what they needed to do, and they executed their game plan. But we saw what we did wrong, and we’ll be able to work on correcting those things in practice.”
Chapel Hill improved to 7-1, 2-0 with a 58-16 trouncing of Webb (7-3, 3-1) on Thursday, handing the Warriors their first loss of the year in Oxford.
Chaplin, a 5-9 ninth-grader, notched her second double-double, with 12 points and 11 rebounds to go with five steals and three blocks.
West contributed eight points and 12 rebounds in Oxford, while Eatmon hit five of six shots from the field, including her single 3-point attempt, to lead all scorers with her 15 points. Farrington added 12 points.
Norris was pleased to see Chapel Hill hold Webb to 16 points, emphasizing that the Tigers need to improve their defensive play if they are going to make another run in the state playoffs.
“We’re still trying to find our chemistry and rhythm,” Norris said. “We’re not yet playing as well defensively as we need to be successful at all levels. That’s what we’re working on the most in practice.”
Basketball Notes: East Chapel Hill’s Ali Cyr-Scully leads girls basketball teams in the N&O area in scoring with her average of 30.4 points a game. Broughton’s Kaila Ealey (24.9) and Olivia Smith of Cardinal Gibbons (24.0) are second and third, respectively. ... Jordan senior Salita Green is fourth in scoring (21.7) and tops in rebounds (13.8). ... Chapel Hills Tamia Eatmon leads in steals (4.8). ... Brittany Stone of New Life Home School leads the area in assists (5.2), one spot above Northwood’s Shontai Totten (4.7).
Coaches interested in reporting scores and updating stats can contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
J. Mike Blake of the Cary News contributed to this report