There a scene in the early moments of “Hoosiers” when Norman Dale has just arrived in Hickory, Indiana. With a laced up basketball in his hands, he says to no one in particular “What kind of hand have I been dealt?”
Two games into the 2015-16 season, that’s what Greg Motley is trying to sort out. He’s had two weeks to work with a full hand, but he lost his ace in the hole before the dealer even finished.
On Thursday night, Sanderson rallied to beat the Panthers 61-58 in Raleigh. The Panthers led by as many as 8 early in the third quarter, but lost Conner Crabtree after he was called for a charge with 5:25 remaining in the third quarter. He didn’t return until 4:27 remaining in the game.
Daniel Mulligan led Orange with 18 points. Center Logan Vosburg and Crabtree added 15. Vosburg scored 11 in the second half, seven in the fourth quarter.
Crabtree’s 3-pointer with 3:57 remaining gave the Panthers a 56-5 lead, but Spartans point guard Taj Thompson took over the game in the final stanza. He nailed a trio of 3-pointers and hit five of six free throws down the stretch.
While Orange has its best performances ahead of them, it’s doubtful they’ll play a quirkier game this season.
In the first quarter, Sanderson had a free throw waved off because of a goal tending call.
Later in the third quarter, Spartan forward Antonio Freeman was fouled by Vosburg going strong to the basket. The crowd has already quieted as Freeman went to the line when one of the referees blurted out to the scorer’s table “The basket was good.” That announcement was met with confused looks from both benches and snickers from the Sanderson fan section, who could have sworn Freeman’s shot missed everything. On the next trip down the floor, Vosburg was credited with a field goal courtesy of a goaltending coal that was almost as mysterious.
Late in the fourth quarter, Thompson had a critical free throw waved off because his feet were on the free throw line.
In the end, the Panthers fell to 0-2, which is hardly surprising. Motley has six players in his rotation that just got finished with football season. Plus, there’s the loss of point guard Eryk Brandon-Dean, who is lost for the season after tearing his ACL in September against Southern Durham.
On the positive side, Orange led 39-35 going at the end of the third quarter. The Panthers only scored 35 points in its season-opening loss to East Chapel Hill on Tuesday night.
The Panthers will play its first home game on Tuesday night against Heritage.
Sanderson improves to 2-1 with the win, which has followed an early pattern. They lost to Knightdale 62-58 and defeated Holly Springs 58-56.