It’s the final week of high school basketball’s regular season, and the Orange Panthers are tied for first place with Southern Durham and Cardinal Gibbons. All three are 9-3 in conference play with two games remaining.
Here’s the thing. It’s supposed to be a secret because Orange Coach Greg Motley would rather not have his team know about that first place part.
“It means a lot for the kids,” said Motley. “But we won’t talk about that. And if they don’t find out from someone else, they won’t know.”
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In an age of instantaneous information, high school basketball has embraced technology – partially. There’s still so much of the sport that’s as primitive as a cart and buggy. Just getting a team’s schedule requires double-checking with coaches instead of merely going to one central website. So maybe Motley’s secret will be kept, even after this article is published.
The only thing for certain for the Panthers, and the rest of the Big Eight, is the final week won’t lack for intensity.
Orange’s regular season finale is against Cedar Ridge on Friday. The Red Wolves claimed their first win over the Panthers in three years at Jim King Gymnasium on Jan. 20, when Peyton Pappas hit a running one-handed shot with :01 remaining.
After that, Orange won three games in the following three days, and seven straight overall.
“I think our focus improved after that game,” said Motley. “That’s a big rivalry for us. After we lost that game, we came in and tried to work on focusing better, and we’ve done that.”
Last Friday night in Pittsboro, employing a full-court, high-speed offense, Orange ran out to a 25-7 lead and raced past Northwood for a 72-55 win on the Chargers’ home court.
The Panthers (15-6, 9-3) piled up 31 points in the first quarter and never trailed. Jawan Chambers, who surpassed the 1,000 point mark for his career in a victory over Southern Durham last week, hit four 3-pointers in the first half and finished with 18 points. Jared Worley paced Northwood with 12.
Chambers and Tay Jones erupted early for Orange. Chambers hit a trio of 3-pointers in the opening five minutes,while Jones scored 10 points in the first stanza. Orange led 31-15 at the end of one quarter and never led by less than 14 the rest of the night.
The Panthers led 46-27 at the half behind two more 3-pointers from Chambers.
Jones finished with 16, while Logan Vosburg added 12.
Stymied by Greg Motley’s 2-3 zone, the Chargers struggled to find consistent offensive threats. Kadarus Rone, Northwood’s leading scorer, was held to five points. Ti Pinnix had nine points, but seven of those came off free throws.
Beyond the Orange-Gibbons-Southern triumvirate, the rest of the Big Eight will spend the final week of the regular season playing for state playoff berths.
Chapel Hill and Cedar Ridge are on the bubble. The Tigers are in fourth place, despite losing to Orange on Tuesday 49-43 behind another strong effort from Chambers.
The Red Wolves (12-10, 6-6) fell to Oxford Webb on Friday, placing them in fifth place behind CHHS (11-7, 8-4).
Southern (12-9 overall) holds the tie-breaker card for first place against Cardinal Gibbons (14-8), which the Spartans defeated home and away this season, but Southern and Orange (15-6) split their meetings, so the race could end up in a tie if both teams win out.
If so, they’re likely to decide the issue by seeing which team finishes highest in next week’s Big Eight Conference tournament, which will begin Feb. 17.
CHHS running table: Chapel Hill locked up a fourth straight Big Eight title in girls basketball with last Friday’s 76-23 blowout of Northern Vance.
That left the Tigers at 17-2 overall and 12-0 in Big Eight games. With two contests left on the season’s schedule, Chapel Hill holds the tiebreaker over second-place Northwood (19-3, 10-2).
Chapel Hill hosted Southern (12-9, 8-4) Tuesday and will host third-place Cardinal Gibbons (17-5, 9-3) on Friday.
Southern closes its girls’ regular season on Friday at home against Northwood.
Close ties: The PAC-6 is coming down to the wire this week, with first-place ties in both boys and girls basketball.
In boys basketball, Jordan (19-2) and Northern (17-5) both won last Friday and were 7-1 in conference play heading into Tuesday’s game at David Poe Gymnasium. (All of Tuesday’s games were played too late for today’s edition of the Durham News. See www.maxpreps.com/ for results.)
Jordan defeated Riverside (15-7, 3-5) by a 72-62 score last Friday to bump the Pirates into fourth place, one game in back of East Chapel Hill (9-11, 4-4) after the Wildcats got past person 43-40.
After going head-to-head Tuesday with Northern, Jordan wraps up its regular season with a home game Friday against East Chapel Hill.
The PAC-6 girls race has a good chance of ending in tie between Riverside (18-2, 7-1) and Hillside (17-3, 7-1), which split their regular season meetings. Hillside lost 57-49 at Riverside last week.
Riverside hosted Person (4-17, 0-7) Tuesday and ends its regular season Friday at home against Northern (6-15, 2-6).
Jordan (14-7, 4-4) was tied for third place with East Chapel Hill (8-7, 4-4) heading into Tuesday’s games. Those two teams play Friday at Jordan in a game likely to decide which one will get the PAC-6’s third playoff spot.