3 teams, 3 state title dreams: Hillside, Chapel Hill, Orange in Final Four
There was some pretty good basketball played here by both Durham and Orange county teams this week.
Four teams from those neighboring locales put their seasons on the line at Crown Coliseum during the N.C. High School Athletic Association Eastern Regional Basketball Tournament.
Riverside is the only team among those that didn’t advance to regional-title Saturday.
The 3-A Orange boys, 3-A Chapel Hill girls and 4-A Hillside girls all advanced and return to Crown today looking to win one more game that will advance them to state-championship Saturday on March 15.
Mother Nature keeps competing for playing time in these games.
Chapel Hill advanced to today’s Final Four by beating Cameron’s Union Pines on Thursday. That game had been scheduled for Tuesday, but adverse winter weather postponed it.
On Friday, both Durham Public Schools and Orange County Schools were closed due to rough weather, and the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools dismissed early because of weather-related safety concerns. Chapel Hill was among several schools in the district that lost power and all after-school activities in that district were canceled.
Chapel Hill coach Sherry Norris said the power outage cut in on her team’s practice time, but the Tigers were able to get in some work and shouldn’t be negatively impacted come game time today against West Craven, she said.
The Orange Panthers were not allowed to practice Friday, OCS assistant superintendent Marcie Holland said, because extra-curricular activities were shut down along with the school. Orange’s semifinal meeting with Wilson Hunt was delayed six hours from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. because of the weather.
Hillside was granted special permission to workout, DPS athletics director Larry McDonald said.
Hillside coach Ovester Grays planned to have the Hornets in Fayetteville on Friday to avoid scrambling on Saturday, making sure his players were ready to roll against Southeast Raleigh, according to McDonald.
“We erred on the side of safety,” McDonald said.
After Riverside lost Thursday night, McDonald said he followed the team’s bus in his car in order to make sure the players and coaches were safely navigated on any dicey roads during their return to Durham.
The following is a look at all three of today’s Eastern Regional championship games (state semifinals) at Fayetteville’s Crown Coliseum involving area teams.
HILLSIDE vs. SE RALEIGH
Class 4-A Girls, 4 p.m.
No. 5 Hillside (24-5) faces No. 2 Southeast Raleigh (25-2), which ended No. 19 Riverside’s postseason run on Thursday.
Southeast got strong and balanced scoring from Amber Richardson (19 points), Jade Phillips (15 points) and Alexus Hicks (15 points). That said, those three didn’t have Hillside Hornets buzzing around them.
Hillside coach Ovester Grays is going to unleash some Hornets who can sting on the defensive end of the floor, Southeast Raleigh coach Nicole Meyers said.
“We know Hillside is going to be a physically tough team,” Meyers said. “I’ve had some experience with Hillside in the past in regionals, and I know what brand of basketball Ovester coaches. So I know they’re going to play hard. I know they’re going to be physical at every position. I’ve already warned (my team). They know.”
Riverside gave Southeast a taste of the PAC-6 toughness that Hillside is going to bring to the court, Meyers said. The Pirates knocked the Bulldogs to the floor on more that one occasion, she said.
“My hope is that we’re not always on the receiving end of that — that we can be just as physical as they’re going to be,” Meyers said.
Hillside beat No. 1 seed Millbrook in the semifinals. The Hornets didn’t defend well in the first half but turned it up during the final 16 minutes with some traps, Grays said.
Hillside’s Zuri White and Justine Lyon both said that it made no difference to them that Millbrook was the top seed in the tournament. They sounded just like their coach.
“I’m always telling them it doesn’t matter who we play,” Grays said. “The only thing that matters is how we play, and that’s the only thing we can control.”
It does matter who’s at the controls. For Hillside, that’s 5-1 point guard Jakelbi Lewis, who this time last year was in middle school.
“Kelbi’s been our glue, and I gave her a new name,” Grays said. “I call her Boomp-Boomp, and it’s (for) heartbeat. We’ve got a freshman running the show that has led us this far, and she’s our glue and makes us go. The way you win championships is you’ve got to have a point guard with a head on her shoulders.”
Southeast Raleigh’s girls said they’ll have something for young Boomp-Boomp and her basketball buddies.
“We just need to be aggressive and attack them and get them in foul trouble early on, and just get the loose balls and win the hustle plays,” Richardson said.
“We’ve just got to come, jump on them from the start and finish till the end,” Hicks said.
WEST CRAVEN vs. CHAPEL HILL
Class 3-A Girls, Noon
There will be no room for letdowns during today’s 3-A Eastern regional-championship game in Crown Coliseum, Chapel Hill coach Sherry Norris said.
She knows what she’s talking about. Norris led the Tigers to a state title in basketball in 1981.
Chapel Hill played for the state title last year but lost to Charlotte’s Harding University High School.
The top-seeded Tigers (30-0) are poised for a return to the big game, but Norris said they can’t be lollygagging on the court today against No. 3 West Craven (27-1) like they were against No. 4 Union Pines in the state quarterfinals Thursday.
Chapel Hill had a 48-24 lead over Union Pines at the end of the third quarter. The scoreboard suggested the game was over, but Norris wasn’t having it.
“At this stage of the game, when you have big leads like that, you have to still keep up your intensity and prepare for the next game down the road,” Norris said.
Today’s West Craven-Chapel Hill game is a rematch of last year’s regional semifinal at Crown Coliseum. Same teams. Same place. Same Jamie Cherry, West Craven’s dynamic scorer.
“West Craven is not going to slack up on us on Saturday, and we’re going to have to really get after it in order to just contain the Cherry girl and also be able to play,” Norris said, recalling when the teams met in December. “We know that we have to contain the Cherry girl. She scored one point against us in the first quarter. I think it was a free throw. But then she went on and scored 32.”
Cherry, a senior, has committed to play at North Carolina.
Union Pines had great size but was young, and “they’re where we were three years ago, and so I think the difference of having been here before gave our girls a lot more confidence to play,” Norris said.
“I think it does give us an advantage that we’ve had a lot of experience here in Fayetteville, playing in big stadiums like this,” Chapel Hill senior Catherine Romaine said. “We know what to expect, and we know what we have to do to win these games.”
“I think we know what to expect,” Chapel Hill junior Raziyah Farrington said. “But I think they’re going to come out harder than we think, because we have upset them twice in the past two years.”
“It helps that we’ve been here, but it doesn’t make it any easier,” Chapel Hill senior Jamella Smith said. “But if we play our game and play as a team, we should be fine — play the way Chapel Hill plays.”
The Tigers need to get in transition against West Craven, Norris said.
WILSON HUNT vs. ORANGE
Class 3-A Boys, 8 p.m.
No one would mistake Orange for the Harlem Globetrotters.
The Panthers do like to play free, though.
“We like to play fast paced, and when we don’t play fast paced, it’s not our style,” Orange guard Jawan Chambers said.
Chambers scored 18 points Wednesday when No. 1 seed Orange (26-5) beat No. 5 West Brunswick, setting up today’s 3-A Eastern Regional title matchup in Crown Coliseum with Hunt (24-3), the No. 2 seed out of Wilson.
Orange coach Greg Motley got a peek at Hunt in the semifinals.
“Their big kid was a man, so that’s going to give us some issues to deal with,” Motley said. “I think we’ll match up pretty well with them other than that. So we’ve just got to decide how we want to defend him.”
Motley was talking about Hunt junior forward Josh Willingham (6-4, 205).
Orange struggled early on the boards against West Brunswick.
“We just needed to box out more, keep them off the boards,” Orange forward J.D. Brooks said.
Brooks said the magnitude of today’game shouldn’t really bother him too much. He’s been deep in the playoffs as an Orange football player, as have dual-sport teammates Tay Jones, Garrett Cloer, Jeff Campbell, A.J. Bradsher and Landon Wheeler.
Of course, an even bigger stage would be the 3-A state title game in the Dean E. Smith Center at UNC Chapel Hill on March 15.
The Panthers have won it all before.
“They won one in 1969,” Motley said.
Motley would deliver Orange’s first state championship in basketball since he started coaching the Panthers in 1998.
There are coaches who frown on showmanship on the court. Not Motley.
“I like the game up and down. That’s just the way I like the game,” Motley said. “What I tell kids is don’t do stuff that you can’t do. So if you see one of our kids throw the ball behind his back, it’s because he’s done it a million times. We feel comfortable with that. We just ask guys to expect that ball and catch that ball. I don’t mind it. If it makes the play, it makes the play.”
4-A EASTERN REGIONAL
No. 5 HILLSIDE (24-5)
No. Name Pos Cl Ht
1 Jakelbi Lewis PG Fr. 5-1
3 Tykyrah Williams G/F Sr. 5-11
4 Elisia Grissett G Fr. 5-11
5 Brittany Powell G Sr. 5-4
10 Justine Lyon G Jr. 5-9
11 Zuri White G/F Sr. 5-10
12 Mya Webb G Jr. 5-9
15 Charlotte George G Jr. 5-8
20 Amanda Lawrence F Jr. 6-0
22 Victoria Powell G So. 5-7
24 Khara Herring F Sr. 6-0
25 Brianna Powell G Sr. 5-10
32 Kirsten Smith F Sr. 5-7
40 Ja’Mia Johnson F So. N/A
No. 2 SOUTHEAST RALEIGH (25-2)
No. Name Pos Cl Ht
3 Alexis Wade G/F Sr. 5-7
5 Jade Phillips G/F Jr. 5-11
10 Ashlyn Jackson SG Sr. 5-6
15 Alexus Hicks PG/SG Sr. 5-5
23 Amber Richardson G/F Jr 5-11
24 Taiyana Hill PG Sr. 5-3
25 Cheria Turrentine PG Jr. 5-3
30 Cherelle Turrentine F Jr. 5-7
32 Tiffany McCarter F Sr. 5-9
33 Kia Abrams SG So. 5-9
34 Danica Lucas G Fr. 5-6
40 Sashanelle Grey F Fr. 5-10
3-A EASTERN REGIONAL
No. 1 CHAPEL HILL (30-0)
No. Name Pos Cl Ht
10 Tamia Eatmon PG/W/P Jr. 5-5
12 Helen Gaynes G/SG/W Jr. 5-7
15 Taylor Headen PG/SG Jr. 5-2
22 Paige Timothy C/PF Sr. 6-0
23 Autumn West P/W/SF So. 5-8
24 Mariah Jacobs W/SG/P So. 5-7
25 Jessica Wall SG/PG Jr. 5-4
31 Raziyah Farrington SG/SF/W Jr. 5-7
32 Catherine Romaine P/SF/PF Sr. 6-2
34 Jamella Smith W/SF/P Sr. 5-9
35 Olivia Clayton P/C Sr. 5-5
40 Jasmine Suitt P/C Sr. 5-9
No. 2 WEST CRAVEN (27-1)
No. Name Pos Cl Ht
10 Jamie Cherry PG, SG Sr. 5-6
11 Rendi Wetherington G So. 5-2
12 Jasmine Raynor PG/G Sr. 5-6
20 J’Miaya Wright G Jr. 5-6
21 Lauryn Cox F Jr. 5-8
22 Mary Lathem G So. 5-6
24 Attalia Dixon F Sr. 5-6
25 Amani Wooten G Fr. 5-6
30 Kaylee Koerperich F Sr. 5-10
32 RonKeia Lewis F Sr. 5-9
33 Lindsey Arthur F Sr. 5-11
42 Johnica Meadows-Cox C Sr. 5-8
44 Myanna Cuthbertson PF Jr. 5-9
45 Mariah Cuthberton F Fr. 5-11
3-A EASTERN REGIONAL
No. 1 ORANGE (26-5)
No. Name Pos Cl Ht
3 Eryk Brandon-Dean PG So. 5-8
4 AJ Bradsher G Jr. 5-10
5 Tay Jones G Jr. 5-11
10 Keegan Crabtree F Sr. 6-5
11 Jeff Campbell G Sr. 5-10
12 Garrett Cloer F Jr. 6-3
15 Landon Wheeler F Jr. 6-2
21 CJ Brown G Jr. 5-11
22 Jawan Chambers G Jr. 5-10
23 JD Brooks F Sr. 6-3
41 Alex Fish PF So. 6-5
45 Jace Jordan-Cornell F So. 6-4
— Connor Crabtree SG Fr. 6-2
— Reggie Bradsher G Fr. 5-7
No. 2 WILSON HUNT (24-3)
No. Name Pos Cl Ht
1 Jaylen Gilliam F/G Jr. 6-3
3 Keenon Tabron G/G Sr. 6-1
5 Justin Jefferson G/F Sr. 6-3
10 Samad Jones F/F Jr. 6-4
11 Chris Felts G/G Jr. 5-11
14 Amate Dawes G/G Jr. 5-10
15 Orlando Dickens G/G Jr. 5-9
21 Ra’Shod Shipman F/F So. 6-5
23 Quan Kent G/G Sr. 6-0
31 Josh Willingham F/F Jr. 6-4
32 Justen Williams F/F Jr. 6-2
33 Dexter Wright F/F Sr. 6-3