BIG EIGHT BOYS: Southern wins inaugural tournament title
Like a defibrillator, Amari Hamilton jolted the Southern boys basketball team to life right off the bat in its Big Eight 3-A Conference Tournament championship game Friday.
It was pure grit the rest of the way as the No. 3 seed Spartans defeated No. 1 seed Orange 67-53 at Chapel Hill High School, giving the Spartans the title in their first year in the new league since moving down from the 4-A ranks after last season.
Hamilton scored his team’s first 10 points. Kendall Hinton’s steal led to a Hamilton fast-break layup as the Spartans took a 7-4 lead.
But the Panthers struck back as J.D. Brooks scored on a slam dunk to give the Panthers a 9-7 lead in the first quarter.
Hamilton struck again, scoring his second 3 from far beyond the arc to give the Spartans a 10-7 lead. Hinton added two more points as the Spartans took a 14-11 lead into the second quarter.
Orange scored the first four points of the second quarter to take a one-point lead. But Southern answered with an 18-6 run, capped off as Rashad Dixon blocked a shot followed by another Hamilton 3.
Southern took a 32-25 lead into halftime.
The second half was a war of attrition as both teams fell into foul trouble and were plagued by turnovers. While the referees called a lot of fouls, it was like because of the fast paced play and aggressive defense of both teams.
“I tell them (the Southern players) a lot of the time that mentally we have to be strong,” Southern coach Kendrick Hall said of the games his team has had to play in the conference tournament. “Coming back tonight, it got chippy at times, but we stayed strong.”
Illustrative of the high-intensity defense were plays by both teams on subsequent possessions in the third quarter.
Hamilton went up strong for a block of Jawan Chambers’ shot, appearing to mostly get ball, but also sending Chambers into the padded wall drawing a foul. On the next play Tay Jones strongly contested Hinton’s shot near the hoop, drawing cheers and boos from the crowd.
The teams split two regular season meetings.
NOTES — Both teams will advance to the state playoffs, Southern as the new No. 2 seed from the Big Eight, Orange as the top seed. Chapel Hill, No. 3, and Cardinal Gibbons, No. 4, will also advance. Another other playoff teams would have to be wild card picks. The playoff brackets will be released today.
No. 3 SOUTHERN 67, No. 1 ORANGE 53
Big Eight 3-A Championship
Southern 14 18 13 22 — 67
Orange 11 14 15 13 — 53
SOUTHERN — Amari Hamilton 24, Kendell Hinton 16, Rashad Dixon 8, Marvin Tillman 7, Greg Washington, Jr., 7, Andrew Freeman 2, Ben Johnson 2, Keywon Hayes 1.
ORANGE — J.D. Brooks 18, Eryk Brandon-Dean 18, Landon Wheeler 7, Keegan Crabtree 5, Tay Jones 3, Jace Jordan-Cornell 2.
3-point goals — Southern 5 (Hamilton 4, Tillman 1); Orange 3 (Wheeler 1, Crabtree 1).
Records — Southern 14-10, Orange 22-5.