The Cardinal Gibbons basketball teams returned to Chapel Hill Wednesday – where they rivaled the Tigers in the Big 8 before moving back up to 4A this year – splitting its non-conference tune up games in front of Time Warner Cable’s live television crew.
Led by Alliyah Chaplin’s double-double, the Chapel Hill girls pulled away to defeat Gibbons 52-38.
The team play of the Gibbons boys neutralized a lights out night from Chapel Hill’s Elijah Hayes, as the Crusaders left the night 66-45 victors.
Chapel Hill picked up its ninth straight win against Gibbons, outscoring the Crusaders 16-9 in the fourth quarter after bouncing back from a paltry four-point showing in the third quarter.
Currently trailing Southern Durham and Northwood in the Big 8 standings, Chapel Hill coach Sherry Norris takes this win as an important moral victory heading into the latter half of the season.
“We play Southern tomorrow and this has got to be a big booster,” Norris said. “We’re feeling capable of beating them.”
The Tigers (11-4, 3-1) were led by by Alliyah Chaplin (21 points, 12 rebounds) and Autumn West (15 points, 9 rebounds). West was honored before the game for scoring her 1,000th career point in the preceding game.
Gibbons (7-7, 2-3) never trailed by more than nine before the fourth quarter, but 15 second half points left the comeback effort stagnant. Chapel Hill was also able to hold Olivia Smith (22 points, 9 rebounds, four 3’s) to only seven points in the second half.
Despite the disappointing loss, Gibbons coach Jessica Lowe says the Crusaders gained something from the midseason non-conference matchup.
“Chapel Hill was really physical. At times we matched that and at others we didn’t which took us out of the game,” Lowe said. “Chapel Hill was a great test because every team in the PAC 6 is big and physical and that’s what we’ll need to be to beat Northern Durham on Friday.”
10 different players cashed in at least least three points for Gibbons (6-9, 2-3) with only Kevin Edwards (16 points) reaching double digits.
“Last year we won the conference and I had five guys, this year my advantage is if those five guys aren’t playing well, I can bring in other guys which I couldn’t do last year,” Gibbons coach Jim Ryan said. “As a coach, that is perfect to have ten guys scoring. That’s so hard to prepare for.”
Spreading the ball on offense and crashing the boards – the Crusaders outrebounded the Tigers 31-to-15 – offset Elijah Hayes’ 28 point, 5 3-pointer, offensive show.
Gibbons held a slim 30-23 advantage at halftime, but a 12-0 run out the gates in the third quarter effectively put the nail in the coffin, giving the Crusaders a crucial 19-point lead.
The win in Chapel Hill was Gibbons’ first of the season, one that coach Ryan believes the team needed.
“We won a road game up in New York, but that was more of a neutral site so this was huge. I told the guys we have to learn how to win on a tough environment on the road,” Ryan said. “We had to knock the door down, hopefully this gives us confidence, we have Northern on Friday and they are really good.”
With a schedule filled with tough teams such as Ravenscroft, Terry Sanford, Voyager Academy and Xavier (N.Y.), the Crusaders are okay with an iffy record if that means they’re getting hot when it matters most.
“I said ‘I don’t want to be playing well in November,’ I want to be playing well in the middle of January, we’re playing all these teams because we want to be ready in January,” Ryan said.