3-A QUARTERS: With a lot on the line, Orange High keeps it fun
Orange High School might be sailing through uncharted waters as it prepares for the boys 3-A Eastern Regional semifinals tonight at Crown Coliseum, but Panthers coach Greg Motley won’t change the way his team approaches its game against West Brunswick.
Motley and his staff ran his team through their usual individual and team drills this week preparting for tonight’s 8:30 game. But it’s not all about work for top-seeded Orange (25-5).
No, basketball is a game, and Motley does what he can to keep things fun.
“Our kids come in expecting to play hard,” Motley said. “The focus is not to worry about any of the pressure. We just try to have fun with basketball, and that’s how we approach it. I’m sure there’s some pressure, so we won’t act like there’s not, but at the same time, we don’t talk about it.
“We tell our kids to play hard and have fun and see how it goes.”
There is a balance between hard work and having fun, but Motley’s team seems to have struck a balance.
“This team works very hard, but at the same time, we try to keep it toned down so they don’t come in all rigid,” Motley said. “For the most part, I think it’s worked this season.”
Motley’s practices sometimes include music picked out by his players to help keep things loose. But Motley, of course, doesn’t let things get too lose.
“They pick it,” Motley said with a smile. “I’ve just got to censor it.”
The balance Motley has struck has helped guide the Panthers to the fourth round of the state playoffs for the first time since 2006. But balance is a big part of Orange basketball, on and off the court.
“We’ve got a pretty balanced team, we think,” Motley said. “Our bench is pretty strong most times, so we can count on a bunch of guys.”
Senior co-captains Keegan Crabtree and J.D. Brooks are the heart of the team, as Crabtree leads the team in scoring, while Brooks is a solid force on the glass.
“They’re our main two guys,” Motley said, “but we have guys around them who do some very special stuff as well.”
Starters Jawan Chambers, Tay Jones and point guard Eryk Brandon-Dean, sophomore point guard play important roles, and Motley has several players on the bench who contribute, too.
“That’s important,” Motley said. “Our balanced attack gives teams trouble. We played Eastern Alamance last Friday, and we had to focus so much on Lamont Robinson.
“I don’t know what other teams talk about focusing on (when they play us), but we’ve got a bunch of guys who they have to account for every night.”
Orange will certainly have to account for Gray Cheers, the leading scorer for West Brunswick (20-7) who poured in 28 points in a victory over Southern in Shallotte last week.
But Motley prefers to focus on his team and making sure they’re ready to play.
“We’re just trying to keep them focused for the next game,” Motley said. “We don’t look too far ahead at all. Really, all season, we’ve just taken them one at a time. Right now, we’ve got to worry about West Brunswick and see what we can do to try to get them.”
NOTE: Tonight’s winner advances to Saturday’s East Regional title game at the Crown Coliseum with the winner advancing to the state 3-A championship game on March 15.