Thompson scores 29, crosses 1,000 point barrier as Orange beats Western Alamance 56-53 in CCC Tournament

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Updated: February 15, 2022

ELON–At the start of a grueling stretch of eight games across 13 days, Orange men’s basketball coach Derryl Britt said his goal was to have his team playing its best basketball by tournament time.

Not only has Orange delivered on that goal, but they’ve now won their first postseason tournament game since 2017.

At the same time, senior guard Jerec Thompson joined an exclusive club.

In his 70th career varsity game, Thompson scored 29 points to cross the 1,000 point barrier when he sank a free throw early in the third quarter against Western Alamance on Monday night. He became the first Orange player since Joey McMullin in 2020 to score 1,000 points.

Thanks in part to several underclassmen, Thompson’s career will see another game.

Junior A’mare Morgan scored on a lay-in with 1:23 remaining that proved to be the margin of victory as the Panthers defeated Western Alamance 56-53 in the quarterfinals of the Central Carolina Conference Tournament on Monday night at Coach Erma Evans Court in Elon.

Orange will face CCC regular season champion Northwood in Pittsboro on Wednesday night at 7:30. The top-seeded Chargers received a bye into the CCC semifinals.

With the game tied 51-51, Morgan took an entry pass from junior guard Kaleb Barnhardt. Western Alamance’s Dayvone Collins knocked the ball free in the paint, but Morgan used his muscle to pick it up, lay it in and draw a foul on Nick McGhee. The subsequent free throw bounced in after it clipped the front rim.

The Warriors’ Kristopher Barnwell sank an 18-foot jumper to cut Orange’s lead to 54-53 with 1:00 remaining. After Orange was called for traveling, the Warriors got the ball back with a chance to take the lead, but Thompson stole a pass into the paint with :24 seconds left.

Eventually, Thompson wound up at the foul line with :14 remaining and sank both free throws. Barnwell’s 3-point attempt to tie the game at the horn banged off the back of the rim and into the arms of Orange freshman Xandrell Pennix.

It was Orange’s first postseason win since they defeated Triton 67-47 in the third round of the 3A State Playoffs on February 25, 2018.

Western Alamance, who never trailed in beating Orange 56-50 on February 5 in Elon, played without starting point guard King Dorsey, who broke a bone in his hand last week. Aside from a few cameos from various reserves, the Warriors rotation was limited to six players.

With its season on the line, Orange showed tournament emotion from the very beginning. Every made shot, pass deflection, defensive stop and rebound triggered a collective roar from the Orange reserves seated on the bench as well as a healthy contingent of Panther fans who drove in from Hillsborough.

Orange got some friendly bounces early to jump out to a 12-5 lead. J.J. Thompson found Thomas Loch for a lay-in, which was followed by a jumper from Loch that hopped three times on the rim before falling through the twine. After Barnwell and Eric Wagoner scored consecutive field goals, Jerec Thompson drained a 3-pointer at the first quarter buzzer to put Orange ahead 15-9.

From the time Darius Corbett picked the pocket of a Western guard and scored on a lay-in to open the second quarter, the Panthers had possibly its best four-minute sequence of the season. Jerec Thompson added two free throws after Isaiah Seymour created a steal. After Barnwell drained two free throws, Thompson drilled a stepback 3-pointer to put Orange ahead 22-11.

Seymour added two free throws, then Thompson drained a 25-footer, then hit another 3-pointer to push the Panther advantage to 28-12, the largest lead of the game.

Western’s Brooks Allred started a comeback with five consecutive points, including the Warriors’ only 3-pointer of the game. Eric Wagoner followed with a 15-foot jumper. McGhee ended the half with a stickback lay-in at the first half buzzer to cut Orange’s lead to 32-26.

McGhee opened the second half with a lay-in and was fouled by Pennix. Allred cut Orange’s lead to 33-30 after a 15-footer. Barnwell had three consecutive field goals to give the Warriors a 36-33 with 5:43 remaining in the third quarter.

The Warriors built its lead to five points after a lay-in from Dayvon Collins before Orange’s J.J. Thompson drained a huge 3-pointer to cut it to 38-36. Orange’s Freddy Sneed made two huge plays in the final minute of the third quarter. Sneed scored on a lay-in after Morgan found him on a jump pass to tie the game. As Western held for one shot in the waning seconds, Sneed picked Allred’s pocket at midcourt and dribbled down the floor as the clock ran down to lay it in before the buzzer sounded to put the Panthers ahead 40-38.

ORANGE 56, WESTERN ALAMANCE 53

ORANGE: Jerec Thompson 29, Xandrell Pennix 4, J.J. Thompson 3, Isaiah Seymour 4, Thomas Loch 4, Freddy Sneed 4, Darius Corbett 3, A’mare Morgan 5.

WESTERN ALAMANCE: Kristopher Barnwell 18, Brooks Allred 13, Dayvone Collins 4, Eric Wagoner 9, Nick McGhee 6, Eric Hardy 2, Gabe Bennett 1.

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