As the Christmas trees and decorations come down, Orange and Cedar Ridge will pick up action tonight in the Big 8 Conference.
For the Red Wolves, tonight’s home game against Chapel Hill is simply a must-win.
Cedar Ridge is 0-3 in league play, which isn’t how Coach Clay Jones expected to start. With Chapel Hill transfer Jacob Thomas providing a low-post scoring punch with Jonathan Hall, along with the backcourt play of Peyton Pappas, the Red Wolves figured to be fighting with Southern Durham and Northwood for the Big 8 lead.
Instead, Cedar Ridge (7-6) lost its conference opener to Orange on December 11th 71-67 behind 32 points from Connor Crabtree. Pappas missed the subsequent game against Northern Vance, a home loss where the Red Wolves were sluggish without its leading scorer.
After a 2nd-place finish in the Clinton Christmas Tournament, Jones immediately started scouting the Tigers. Chapel Hill (4-7) lost all three of its games in the South Granville holiday tournament, but is 2-0 in the Big 8.
This is the roller coaster part of the season for both teams. After a week off for Christmas, CRHS played two games in two days in Clinton. They have home games against Chapel Hill and Northwood this week, then don’t play again until January 19 against Orange.
“I think our guys are focused,” said Jones. “It’s all hands on deck. Chapel Hill is a must-win because we can’t expect to be at the top of this conference and be 0-4.”
Orange faces three games in four days. Tonight, it’s Southern Durham in Hillsborough. On Thursday, consecutive road trips to Northwood, followed by Chapel Hill the following night.
The Panthers (5-6, 2-0) is coming off a 5th place finish in the Holiday in the Pines tournament, where they defeated New Life Christian Academy and Charlotte Olympic in the final two days. Orange opened with a 105-96 loss to Richmond County on the first day, where Connor Crabtree scored 43 points.
Southern Durham (3-0), Orange and Chapel Hill (2-0) are tied for first place in the loss column in the Big 8. The Spartans wasted little time in becoming the front runners in the league by claiming road wins over Northwood (85-55) and Oxford Webb (71-54). The Spartans are led by guard J’Tori Christmas, who averages 15.1 points per game. Antonio Daye averages 13.4 points per game.
Tonight’s game will be a test for the Panther backcourt. The Spartans have multiple 3-point options, and Orange has struggled to find consistent guard scoring with the absence of Eryk Brandon-Dean. Orange will likely opt for a slower pace of play with Crabtree and center Logan Vosburg.
Hillsboroughsports.com will broadcast Friday’s game between Orange and Chapel Hill starting at 7 from Tiger Gymansium.