Grind Week in the Big Eight Conference is now in the rear view mirror for all eight of the boy’s basketball teams.
Grind Week is the week after exams, a week when teams play three conference games in four days – unless you’re Orange or Oxford Webb. Then you play four in four days.
Grind Week also marks the midway point of the conference season and supposedly brings certainty to the race for the regular season championship.
Yet somehow, more questions have popped up. Such as:
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Has the law of averages caught up to Cardinal Gibbons after its first conference loss on Friday night?
Is Chapel Hill a contender or just another team lurking in the middle of the league?
Is Cedar Ridge ready to take the next step to the upper echelon after running the table on Grind Week?
And how good is Orange?
There is no question the Panthers had the craziest Grind Week of all Big Eight teams. Cedar Ridge earned its first win over Orange in three years with a 63-61 victory on Tuesday after Peyton Pappas knocked down a one-handed runner with :01 remaining.
Rather than folding, Orange gathered itself and promptly won its next three games in three days, saving the best for last with an 83-74 upset of Gibbons, the Crusaders’ first Big Eight loss of the year.
At the end of Grind Week, Gibbons remains in first place in the Big Eight at 6-1, while Southern Durham is 5-2. The Spartans and the Crusaders play twice over the final 16 days of the regular season. Orange and Cedar Ridge are tied for third at 5-3, while Chapel Hill is 4-3 after its most disappointing effort of the season.
Chapel Hill (9-5 overall) lost for the second time in three games last week, falling 72-55 Friday night at Northwood, where the Chargers picked up their first conference win at home this season.
Chaz Bailey led the Chargers (8-10, 2-6) with 18 points and 10 rebounds, while Jared Worley added 14 points and 13 rebounds.
Chapel Hill was led by Jamil Walker with 11 points, six of which came in the first two minutes on a pair of 3-pointers. For the rest of the game, the Tigers were 4-of-18 from behind the arc
After Walker’s treys gave CHHS a 6-2 lead, the Chargers went on a 22-2 run for the rest of the first quarter and never trailed again. Consecutive 3-pointers by reserve guards Christian Ferrell and Justus Thompson to end the first quarter gave Northwood a 20-8 lead. Meanwhile, the Tigers went more than 10 minutes without a field goal bridging the first and second quarters.
“They shot it extremely well, which you would expect since they were playing at home,” said Chapel Hill coach Bill Walton. “They wanted it a little bit more than we did. Some of their role players even played well. We missed layups.”
The Chargers went into the fourth quarter with only three turnovers and shot 49 percent from the field.
Northwood point guard Ti Pinnix finished with eight assists and two turnovers. The Tigers’ leading scorer, David Caraher, was held to 11 points on 5-of-14 shooting.
Chapel Hill came into Friday’s game after winning six of its previous eight contests. The Tigers lost 62-59 Jan. 20 at Cardinal Gibbons but bounced back the next night with a convincing 69-52 win at home against Northern Vance.
Despite last Friday’s loss, Walton wasn’t giving up on Chapel Hill’s chances for the Big Eight’s regular-season title. He noted Cardinal Gibbons (11-5) still had home and away games with (8-8) Southern Durham, the Big Eight’s defending champion.
“Something has got to give there,” said Walton. “We dug ourselves a hole, but we still have a chance.”
Tigers top the girls’ basketball standings
With six conference games left in the Big Eight’s regular season for girls basketball, Chapel Hill held a two-game lead this week over their area rivals.
Chapel Hill (13-2, 8-0) assumed command in the Big Eight Conference race with a convincing 61-45 victory Friday at Northwood.
Raziyah Farrington led CHHS at Northwood with 16 points, including four points off five free throws in the final minute to help secure the win.
Autumn West added 10 points for the Tigers, while Alliyah Chaplin, Taylor Headen and Jessica Wall each chipped in eight points.
Northwood was led by Shontai Totten's 21 points.
Without a loss to a 3A team since 2013, the Tigers held a two-game lead over Northwood (15-3, 6-2) and Cardinal Gibbons (13-4, 5-2) going into Tuesday’s games.
Northwood was scheduled to play Tuesday night at Cardinal Gibbons, which had defeated (6-11, 3-5) Orange 58-46 Friday to stay within a half game of the Chargers.
The Crusaders host Southern Durham (8-7, 4-2) on Thursday and Northern Vance (2-13, 1-5) on Friday.
Chapel Hill was to play twice times this week: Tuesday against Oxford Webb (9-6, 1-5) and Friday at Cedar Ridge (7-10, 0-7). A Wednesday game with Carrboro was canceled. Carrboro instead will play Reidsville on Wednesday.