DURHAM — If nothing else, Southern Durham will start February with a better taste in their months – and it certainly won’t be bitter orange peels.
The mindset of a team can be a funny thing after losing to a conference rival. When Southern lost to Orange 71-61 in overtime on Jan. 7, some coaches simply would have said “next game.”
Not Coach Kendrick Hall.
“We felt we should have won that game,” said Hall. “Since that game, we’ve had orange peelings in our mouths. We really hated losing that game. We wanted to come out and show we could play better, and we did.”
Friday night, the Spartans looked as smooth as Orange sherbet by holding the Panthers to 31-percent shooting from the field in a 70-53 victory at Spartan Gymnasium. Amari Hamilton led the Spartans with 28 points. The Panthers, who were only 2-of-15 from 3-point range, were led by center J.D. Brooks with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
The loss puts Orange (15-4, 7-2) and Southern (10-8, 7-2) in a tie for second place in the Big Eight Conference. Chapel Hill (13-5, 8-1) took over sole possession of first with 54-43 win Friday at home over Cedar Ridge.
The Panthers’ second straight loss was their most lopsided one of the season, and perhaps predictable. Orange played seven days after losing 54-47 to Cardinal Gibbons. Snow forced the cancellation of two school days and the postponement of Tuesday’s game against Northern Vance. The Panthers had practiced only once since the loss to Gibbons.
“It’s been kind of rough,” said Orange Coach Greg Motley. “I was nervous about how we would come out, since we haven’t been in the gym very much.”
Motley had reason to be concerned. Southern alternated Marvin Tillman and Hamilton on Orange big man Keegan Crabtree, a 6-6 forward with plenty of range. Crabtree scored 21 in the first matchup three weeks ago. On Friday, he was held to 10 points on 2-of-8 shooting, thanks in part to the Spartans’ matchup zone.
“It was tough to get shots off tonight,” said Motley. “I don’t think we had a lack of confidence (after the Cardinal Gibbons loss). I think a combination of the layoff and playing a tough team on the road had a lot to do with it.”
After trailing 34-25 at the half, Orange rallied with an 13-4 run to narrow the Spartan lead to 40-38 after Jawan Chambers scored on a stick-back bucket with 1:45 remaining in the third quarter.
Southern struck back with three straight three-point plays to end the quarter. First, guard Kendall Hinton canned a three-pointer. After Hinton forced an Orange turnover, forward Rashard Dixon scored on a lay-in, and converted the ensuing free thrown after a foul on Crabtree. Freshman J’Tori Christmas ended the quarter when he flicked in a three-pointer off a pass by Ben Johnson, a shot that barely beat the third quarter buzzer and gave Southern a 49-40 lead.
Tigers take over first
Hosting the Cedar Ridge boys Friday, Chapel Hill hit a flurry of free throws in the fourth quarter to hold on for a 54-43 win in Big Eight basketball.
Chapel Hill freshman David Caraher hit 11 of 12 free throws in the final 8 minutes and ended up with 20 points as the game's leading scorer. Jamil Walker chipped in nine points and Brian Thorton seven for the Tigers.
“They started fouling and we were in the one-and-one and two-shot bonus early in the fourth quarter,” Chapel Hill Coach Lason Perkins said. “It was just a matter of going to the line and hitting them.”
Perkins admitted he’d had some concerns about how his team would respond to having missed Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday practices due to weather-related school closures.
“What I told the team is that everybody else in the conference missed two or three days, too,” he said. “The big question was: Who is going to respond the best?”
Coupled with Orange's loss Friday to Southern Durham, the Tigers' fourth straight conference win gave Chapel Hillsole possession of first place in the Big Eight.
Update: Chapel Hill improved to 14-5 overall and 9-1 in the Big Eight with a 53-49 win Saturday afternoon at Oxford Webb. The game, originally scheduled for Tuesday, had been moved to Saturday because of the week’s winter weather and school cancellations.