Jordan-Cornell, Harris lead Orange women past Southern 61-39

Updated: January 23, 2021

For one night, Orange High Gymnasium resembled a pre-pandemic world.

That is, if you could ignore the empty bleachers. Well, empty except for Orange Principal Matthew Hunt and the Panthers cheerleaders.

On the floor, there was Aaliyah Harris leading the fast break, scoring on a lay-in and hitting the floor hard, but bouncing back up as she always does. On the other end, junior Jarmil Wingate locked down Southern Durham’s perimeter game. In the middle was sophomore Erin Jordan-Cornell, back in action on the hardwood after an abrupt end to volleyball season.

At a time where the template of a standard season has been thrown into the incinerator and any normal routine is a distant memory, it was nice to remember what the old normal was like.

The Orange women’s basketball team defeated Southern Durham 61-39 in its home opener at Panther Gymnasium on Friday night. Orange (1-1) was led by Jordan-Cornell’s 19 points and 16 rebounds. Harris added 17 points, six rebounds and five assists.

Orange started the week under the assumption that the Big 8 Conference regular season would consist of 14 games. On Wednesday, the league’s athletic directors voted to change that, reducing the conference season to seven games. Teams can still play 14 games, the full allotment allowed by the North Carolina High School Athletic Association this season, but only the first seven games will count in the Big 8 Conference standings.

“Honestly, I don’t think there was a better option,” said Orange County B.J. Condron, who was in Wednesday’s meeting. “It doesn’t look like some teams will be able to get all their games in. If I had a better soluton, I certainly would have presented it. But I think that’s the only way to go right now.”

It was another reminder that as much as everyone wants to return to normal, things still aren’t normal.

Even during a pandemic, the Orange women’s team is used to each other. Harris, Wingate, Jala Rainey and Samantha George have each been on the varsity team for three years, and were AAU teammates years before arriving at Orange. Jordan-Cornell, Katelyn Van Mater and Nikayla Whitted were freshman on the varsity team last year.

“They had some good rhythm in the second quarter,” Condron said. “The thing that impressed me was when some of them got in foul trouble, our younger kids stepped up and played a huge role. Jada Reed had some good minutes. It was a good team win.”

Southern (2-3), who finished second in the Big 8 last season, doesn’t have a senior on its roster. Orange’s experience was apparent offensively, finishing with 19 field goals off 14 assists. Southern’s offense generally contested of jump shots and dribble-drives off turnovers. The Spartans were 1-of-24 from 3-point range and had only two assists.

Southern’s Chloe Richmond, who led the team with eleven points, hit two free throws to give the Spartans a 6-5 lead. Orange responded with ten consecutive points and didn’t look back. Harris opened the game with a 3-pointer and had nine points in the opening quarter. Jordan-Cornell scored seven.

Southern got field goals from Destiny Herndon and Kailyn Griffin to pull within 16-11 early in the second quarter, but Orange’s offense shifted into midseason form in its home opener with seamless transition offense from Harris, Wingate and Jordan-Cornell to mount an 18-4 run and settle into cruise control. Orange led 30-15 with 3:10 remaining in the first half.

Orange shot 5-of-9 from the field in the second quarter.

After dropping the season opener at Northwood last Friday, Orange is focused on its remaining five games that will count in the conference standings. Of course, there’s a chance the schedule could be adjusted whenever Orange Athletic Director Mark McCulley’s cell phone rings.

If there’s a season that fits the old Beatles’ song “Tomorrow Never Knows,” it’s this one. Somehow, it’s a mindset that Condron embraces through the most unusual season of his young coaching career.

“Honestly, it hasn’t phased me,” Condron said. “I’m looking at how many games can we get in? If we end up in one of the top spots, that’s great. If we don’t, then at least we got to play this year. Because there was a time where it wasn’t even looking like we weren’t going to play. So I tell the team to play every game like it’s their last. Because it could be.”

Orange 61, Southern Durham 39

Southern Durham-Rymiah Sanders 7, Briana Hughes 8, Kailyn Griffin 4, Chloe Richmond 11, RaShae Christopher 2, Destiny Herndon 1, Ashari Robinson 6.

ORANGE: Samantha George 8, Aaliyah Harris 17, Jarmil Wingate 7, Erin Jordan-Cornell 19, Makayla Alston 1, Jada Reed 3, Jala Rainey 4, Katelyn Van Mater 2.

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