After winning ten of its last eleven, there was more than hope within the Cedar Ridge basketball camp that Wednesday night would be the night they could gain the elusive win over Orange in the Big 8 Semifinal.
There was not only proof they could play with anyone. They could beat anyone. They had won 10 of its last 11. They defeated Southern Durham less than three weeks ago, still the only team in the Big 8 to accomplish that this season. The very next night, Southern blew out Orange 81-62, despite losing leading scorer J’Tori Christmas 80 seconds into the game with an injured ankle.
All of that hope dissipated within seconds at Orange High Gymansium on Wednesday night.
The Panthers defeated the Red Wolves 76-62 in the Big 8 Semifinals at Jim King Gymnasium. With the win, the Panthers will face Southern again, this time for the Big 8 Championship on Friday night at Chapel Hill High School. Game time will be 7:30. You can hear the game on Hillsboroughsports.com.
There was some good news for the Red Wolves. Southern defeated Northern Vance 83-54, meaning Cedar Ridge will make the 3-A state playoffs as the third seed from the Big 8. The announcement of the state playoff field will be made on Saturday.
With the win, Orange improves to 16-8. Cedar Ridge drops to 17-8.
Peyton Pappas opened the game with a transition layup off a blocked shot by Jacob Thomas. It was Cedar Ridge’s only lead of the game. Not only that, but only one other CRHS player aside from Jacob Thomas scored a field goal in the first half, a Khalil Barnett jumper in the second quarter long after the Panthers had established a double-digit lead.
As usual, Orange’s Connor Crabtree was the X factor, finishing with 28 points. He hit consecutive 3-pointers in the first quarter, and finished with 10 points in the opening stanza. Daniel Mulligan, who ended with 11 points, scored on a reverse layup with :40 remaining to put Orange ahead 21-10 to finish the first quarter.
Thomas kept Cear Ridge in the game during the second quarter with nine points. He finished with 23. But after Cameron Cavanaugh hit a three-pointer, followed by Logan Vosburg’s spinning lay in that put Orange ahead 27-15, the Red Wolves never got the deficit below ten points again.
The Cedar Ridge transition games was slowed by the Panthers. Pappas finished with 12 points, but eight of those came from the foul line.
“Once he gave up the ball, we tried to keep him from getting it back. We know he handles the ball well in transition, and we tried to limit that tonight.” Orange coach Greg Motley.
Now, Orange focuses on something that’s been elusive: a conference tournament championship. Since Motley became head coach of Orange in 1998, the Panthers have never won one.
To do it, they’ll have to defeat a Southern Durham team that won the last Big 8 Tournament championship in 2014 against Orange. In the same building where they won it two years ago (Last year’s tournament was cancelled because of snow).
The victory by Orange means the Panthers will be the 2nd-seed from the Big 8 conference, which likely means a home game in the opening round of the playoffs.
Cedar Ridge: 10 15 19 18 = 62
Orange: 21 20 16 19 = 76
Cedar Ridge: Peyton Pappas 12, Khalil Barnett 8, Shane Evans 2, Jonathan Hall 2, Jacob Thomas 22, Terrrence Crawford 8, Colby Cashaw 1.
Ornage: Cameron Cavanaugh 3, Reggie Bradsher 5, Alex Long 5, Connor Crabtree 28, Daniel Mulligan 11, Logan Vosburg 21, Marquise Phelps 1, Jace-Jordan Cornell 2.