Unlike the win-now-or-else world of football, high school basketball allows teams time to grow.

Seven weeks ago, Greg Motley knew the hand his was dealt for the 2015-16 basketball season was going to be shorthanded in the beginning. He would go into the season without Eryk Brandon-Dean, the point guard who guided his transition offense carefully for two seasons. As has been well documented, Brandon-Dean suffered a torn ACL against September 24th. Backup center Jace Jordan-Cornell would also miss half the season due to a leg injury, also suffered in football.

With only one starter returning, Orange predictably started 0-3, but there was reason for optimism. Now, having had time to gell and with Motley placing the guard tandem of Cameron Cavanaugh and Reggie Bradsher as regular starters, the Panthers have won seven of its last eight.

The latest victory came on Tuesday night with a 63-43 victory over crosstown rival Cedar Ridge. Playing its 2nd game in just over 24 hours, the Panthers received 21 points each from Connor Crabtree and Logan Vosburg to improve to 10-7. Orange is also 6-1 in the Big 8 conference, a game behind Southern Durham for first place (The Spartans blew out Northwood 81-43 on Tuesday).

“There were a lot of questions coming in (this season),” said Motley. “We didn’t know how good we could be. Now they’ve figured it out and they’re doing a good job.”

The surprise of the night wasn’t that Vosburg scored 21 points. He had put up 17 points and 15 rebounds just the day before against previously undefeated Goldsboro at the Durham School of the Arts.

The fact Vosburg hit 3-pointers in the 2nd half was another matter.

“That was big,” said Motley. “Some nights he looks to shoot it, some night he doesn’t. But we allow him the freedom to shoot the ball.”

For Cedar Ridge, the loss was a far cry from the elation of last February, when they stunned Orange 69-63 after trailing by 19 points early in the 3rd quarter. Not only did that win give Cedar Ridge a season sweep of its crosstown rival, it cost Orange the Big 8 regular season championship.

Orange led 29-26 at the half after the Red Wolves held Crabtree scoreless in the first quarter. Panther forward Daniel Mulligan, who finished with 11 points, scored seven in the first quarter.

The third saw Orange out score the Red Wolves 21-6. Cedar Ridge’s offense the entire quarter consisted of two field goals by Senior Peyton Pappas and two free throws by Jonathan Hall.

The familiar problem for the Red Wolves is scoring. ¬†Pappas will get his points. He’s too talented not to. So will Chapel Hill transfer Jacob Thomas. But after that, it’s a question mark.

Pappas led the Red Wolves with 20 points on Tuesday, while Thomas was held to 9, including a lone field goal in the second half. The rest of the team had 14 points.

“I’m not going to sugarcoat it. Orange played a heckuva game,” said Cedar Ridge coach Clay Jones. “They do a lot of things well and right now, we’re not. We’ve been looking for that third person the last two years, and we’ve yet to find it. Right now, it’s still up in the air.”

Cedar Ridge falls to 8-8, 1-5 in the Big 8. They travel to Oxford Webb tonight.



Cedar Ridge:9 17 6 11 = 43

Orange: 10 19 21 13 = 63

Cedar Ridge: Peyton. Pappas 20, Jonathan. Hall 4, Jacob Thomas 9, Colby Cashaw 2, Shane Hill 6, Ikell Knowles 2.
Orange: Cameron Cavanaugh 3, Connor Crabtree 21, Demares Drummond 4, Daniel Mulligan 11, Alex Fish 1, Logan Vosburg 21, Jace-Jordan Cornell 2.

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