Northwood needed a few minutes to find the right gear Tuesday night, but once it did, the Chargers zoomed ahead and never looked back as they routed four-time defending conference champion Chapel Hill 66-40 in girl basketball.
The Tigers’ loss was their first in a conference game since 2012. Since then, Chapel Hill had won 47 straight conference contests and appeared in the last three state 3A state championship finals.
Chapel Hill (5-2, 0-1) led 9-0 early and was up 15-9 after one quarter but then ran afoul of Northwood’s defensive pressure. The Chargers (6-2, 1-1) pounced on 10 Chapel Hill turnovers in the second quarter and roared to a 39-24 halftime lead.
“I think we were still intimidated by Chapel Hill,” Northwood coach Cameron Vernon said. “There was a good reason for that. They’ve been so good for the past four seasons.
“We talked about that before the game. We just needed to get into our heads that we’re a good team. The players were intimidated early, and Chapel Hill was getting after it.”
Junior guard Bryn Aydt and sophomore forward Erika Nettles each scored 18 points to lead Northwood, while 5-2 junior guard Jazanae Billings added 14 points.
Autumn West scored a team-high 11 points for Chapel Hill before becoming the third Tiger to foul out of the game. Ti’Mia Chaplin drew her fifth foul with 3:08 left in the third quarter, and her sister Alliyah Chaplin drew her fifth foul with 6:31 left in the fourth.
Chapel Hill coach Sherry Norris drew a technical after officials mistakenly told her a fourth Chapel Hill player had fouled out and she complained about the disparity in fouls, which was 8-1 in Northwood’s favor at that point. Nettle sank her two free throws and Aydt followed with two technical free throws to give Northwood its biggest lead, 63-33, with 2:39 left in the game.
Mariah Jacobs, the lone Chapel Hill starter still on the court for the final five minutes, finished with 10 points.
“We thought we could get them into foul trouble if we went right at them,” Vernon said. “It took us a while, but we started getting inside and getting some baskets and free throws.”
Down by six points at the start of the second quarter, Northwood got eight straight points from Nettles in a span of 45 seconds to spark a 12-2 run. A short jumper and subsequent free throw by Nettles put the Chargers ahead 19-17 with 4:22 left in the first half, and they never trailed again.
Billings scored 8 points in the final 2:02 of the second quarter as Northwood closed the first half with a 15-0 run.
“Northwood is just much better than we are,” Norris said. “They out-played us; they out-shot us; they out-hustled us.
“Once they settled into their game, they were fine.”