As part of its pregame lead up to Wednesday night’s state playoff game with Chapel Hill, Orange High School presented Greg Motley with the Big Eight Conference’s boys basketball coach of the year award he had earned during the regular season.
Some Chapel Hill supporters saw this as a bit of an affront to Tiger head coach Lason Perkins.
Chapel Hill lost to Orange twice during the regular season and lost again last Wednesday night, 72-63, in the N.C. High School Athletics Association sectional playoffs.
But the Tigers had matched Orange’s conference record and did something the Panthers were unable to do: They beat Southern Durham and thereby shared the conference championship with Orange.
And they did it with a much younger team. Orange was blessed this year with an outstanding senior class and a terrific group of veteran athletes.
Several of the Orange basketball players were the same athletes who took the Panthers into the fourth round of the state football playoffs.
Chapel Hill on the other hand had an applecart turnover of a year.
Tod Morgan, who had coached the Tigers to successive conference championships and deep runs into the playoffs, decided late last spring to leave Chapel Hill to rejoin his family in New Bern. And Chapel Hill graduated 10 seniors off of last year’s 24-5 league champs.
Perkins was the logical choice to take over. He is widely regarded as a master of Xs and Os. He had been Morgan’s chief assistant and had twice served as interim head coach when Morgan took a night off to be with his family.
As well suited as he was for the job, Perkins nonetheless faced a challenging task in rebuilding the Tiger lineup. His biggest asset was the presence of three seniors: Shane Turner, Karl Hill and Josh Hennen.
All three are ‘A’ students and were Academic All-Conference. And they ended their high school basketball careers with an impressive list of accomplishments.
The three seniors were a major reason Perkins was able to coach Chapel Hill to a record of 19-8.
Regardless of the fact that Big Eight voters selected someone else for post-season honors, Perkins deserves recognition. Maybe we can just call him the N.C. Rookie Coach of the Year.