Orange women’s basketball to face E. Alamance in state playoffs–again

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Updated: February 23, 2020

For the fourth time in five years, the Orange women’s basketball team has made the state playoffs.

Instead of driving three hours to face an opponent they know by name only, the Lady Panthers will take a short hop up Highway 70 on Tuesday night to play in a familiar gym against a team they know very well.

Orange will face Mid-State Conference Champion Eastern Alamance in Mebane on Tuesday night. The Eagles finished the regular season tied with Northern Guilford for 1st place in the Mid-State 2A/3A Conference at 12-2. That tie was broken when the Eagles defeated the Nighthawks 46-43 in the Mid-State Tournament Championship game on Saturday night.

Eastern Alamance, coached by Tim Krotish, finished its conference tournament 22-4.

“We are really excited about being able to continue playing,” said Orange coach B.J. Condron. “It’s great that we don’t have to travel too far. We have our work cut out for us in a really good Eastern Alamance team, but we are looking forward to the challenge.”

Orange was the sixth and final team from the Big 8 Conference to make the 3A State Playoffs. They received a #29 seed, while the Eagles are seeded fourth.

The winner will face the winner of White Oak vs. Swansboro on Thursday.

This marks the second year in a row that Orange and Eastern Alamance will tangle in the opening round of the 3A State Playoffs. Last year, Eastern used a trapping defense to frustrate the Lady Panthers and pull off a 57-52 upset in Hillsborough. It marked the end of an era for Orange, as seniors Icez Barnett, Lauren Cates, Grace Dively and Kate Burgess all played their final games in a Panther uniform.

It was especially emotional for Barnett, who started her career at Eastern Alamance before transferring to Orange for her sophomore year.

Orange almost annually visits Eastern Alamance for its Holiday Hoops Tournament. In December, the Lady Panthers played three games inside Eagle Gymnasium.

The Burlington School defeated Orange in the opening round 57-46. The Lady Panthers, who had lost sophomore guard Mary Moss Wirt to an injured knee two weeks earlier against Carrboro, rebounded to beat Bartlett Yancey and Riverside and finished in fifth place.

Orange (11-12) is coming off a 51-36 loss to Chapel Hill in the opening round of the ill-fated Big 8 Women’s Basketball Tournament last Tuesday. The Tigers never got to play its semifinal game against Southern Durham after the tournament was canceled because of snow Thursday.

Trailing 24-23 at halftime, the Lady Panthers traded the lead with Chapel Hill throughout the third quarter before the Tigers’ defense took over. Orange was held to four points in the final quarter, all scored by sophomore guard Samantha George.

Without the four senior starters from last year, Condron knew he would have a young team when practice started in November. He had no idea how young they would eventually be when Wirt went down with a season-ending injury on December 12. Wirt was Orange’s top returning scorer from last season and their top 3-point threat.

Sophomore forward Jarmil Wingate, senior Grace Andrews and freshman center Erin Jordan-Cornell have also missed games this year. Against Cedar Ridge on January 30, Orange even played without four starters (Jordan-Cornell, Wirt, Wingate and George) but still pulled out a 52-40 win on the Red Wolves’ senior night.

Sophomore Aaliyah Harris, one of only two players to appear in all of Orange’s 23 games, leads the Lady Panthers with 12 points per game.

The Lady Panthers are the third team from Orange to reach the state playoffs this year. The volleyball and wrestling teams both fell in the opening rounds of their respective tournaments.

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