BIG EIGHT 3-A: Chapel Hill girls, Southern boys win semis
What home court advantage?
A fired-up and focused Southern team with three players in double digits and a press that flattened out Chapel Hill’s offense played it right down to the wire before edging the Tigers on their home court 52-48 Thursday night.
The Spartans advance to the Big Eight 3-A Tournament championship game against No. 1 Orange at 7 tonight at Chapel Hill for “another tough one,” Southern coach Kendrick Hall said.
“No one team had the total edge. We just had a couple more plays than they did. It was a back-and-forth game,” Hall said of the clash with Chapel Hill, in which the lead changed hands 11 times
The Chapel Hill girls dumped Southern 76-58 in the opening game of Thursday’s semifinals at Chapel Hill to remain perfect at 25-0 despite having a patchwork lineup. They play No. 2 seed Cardinal Gibbons at 5:30 today for the tournament championship.
“We have a lot of players out so we’re all playing different positions,” said junior shooting guard Raziyah Farrington, the Lady Tigers’ high scorer with 22. But Southern’s big, physical girls were tough to match up with.
“We didn’t have a big person” due to injuries, Farrington said. “Our coach told me I had to be ready to shoot, and it’s a big game, so I had to step up.”
Autumn West had 16 points and 7 rebounds; Jamella Smith had 15 points, 11 rebounds and 4 assists; Jessica Wall had 13 points and 6 assists; and Tamia Eatmon had 5 steals and 4 assists for the Tigers.
Hall said the Chapel Hill boys “most definitely” had the edge coming into the game gauging by records and home court advantage.
“I knew after playing them two times they’re a really, really good team. They’re solid fundamentally from top to bottom,” Hall said, “so whoever loses their focus on fundamentals, just like playing defense and boxing out and stuff like that, that’s who would win the game.”
In the end, he said, Southern did what it had to do.
“I wanted them to focus on both ends the entire game, and we did that. Free throws have been our Achilles’ heel all year. Kendall (Hinton) hit some real big free throws out there at the end and that’s what really helped us to get the win,” Hall said.
The Spartans’ press was stifling.
“They rotated better, they hustled,” and it knocked Chapel Hill off its game, Hall said. “It slowed them up some, made them make some passes they don’t usually make because they don’t turn the ball over like that” normally, he said of the Tigers’ precision game.
Southern will need to do a better job on the boards tonight, Hall acknowledged.
“I thought we did better, but they were still hogging that glass,” he said of Chapel Hill’s play underneath and their ability to tip the ball to each other.
“That was one of my keys that I wrote down tonight. Post players must win in all areas, which is crash the glass on offense and defense,” Hall said. “We did better at it and we got some key ones right there at the end.”
Junior guard Marvin Tillman and senior guard Amari Hamilton led Southern with 15 points each. Hinton, a junior guard, had 13.
But it was Tillman who had the most electrifying play of the night, and it wasn’t the long pass by Chapel Hill junior guard Brian Thornton he intercepted near the Tigers’ basket and ran all the way back for a layup. Nor was it his 3-pointer from in front of the bench at 4:44 of the same period to give Southern one of its several leads.
The incredible play was at 7:42 of the final period and started with a couple of juke steps and hip fakes to slip around a pair of Chapel Hill defenders.
From there Tillman sliced through heavy inside traffic to create his own lane, leapt towards the basket and swirled the ball around in circular motion not once, but twice to fool a defender trying to block what turned into a nifty underhand layup and a 40-38 lead for the Spartans.
No. 3 SOUTHERN 52, No. 2 CHAPEL HILL 48
Big Eight 3-A Boys’ Semifinal
Southern 10 13 15 14 — 52
Chapel Hill 11 9 18 10 — 48
SOUTHERN — Amari Hamilton 15, Marvin Tillman 15, Kendall Hinton 13, Rashad Dixon 5, Ben Johnson 4.
CHAPEL HILL — Andy Gillespie 11, Shane Turner 10, David Caraher 5, Jeremy Werden 5, Ben Brower 4, Karl Hill 4, Brian Thornton 4, Jamil Walker 4, Josh Hennen 1.
Records—Southern 14-10, Chapel Hill 19-7.
No. 1 CHAPEL HILL 76, No. 5 SOUTHERN 58
Big Eight Girls' Semifinal
Southern 9 11 20 18 — 58
Chapel Hill 13 20 23 20 — 76
SOUTHERN — Alexis Joyner 21, Bryanna Staton 20, Kelcie Bullock 6, Addis Lemons 6, Jazmine Billings 3, Dominique Justice 2.
CHAPEL HILL — Raziyah Farrington 22, Autum West 16, Jamella Smith 15, Jessica Wall 13, Mariah Jacobs 4, Tamia Eatmon 3, Taylor Headen 2, Helen Gaynes 1.
Records—Southern 11-14, Chapel Hill 25-0.