The cliche “A battle of two teams moving in opposite directions” doesn’t fit Orange’s 88-57 rout of Cedar Ridge on Saturday.
Really, it was a game between two teams at different stages of their programs.
At the very least, Orange has as much talent as its 2013-14 squad, which went 26-6 and advanced to the 3A Eastern Regional Final, where they lost to Wilson Hunt 66-60 at the Crown Coliseum in Fayetteville. That team, featuring Tay Jones, Jawad Chambers and Keegan Crabtree, was among the best in Greg Motley’s 20 years as Panthers head coach.
On Saturday, Orange started two seniors who have anchored the program the past two seasons. Connor Crabtree put the game away early in the third quarter when he stole a pass leading to a breakaway slam dunk, then fired in a 22-foot three-pointer which PA announcer Coach Charles Walker bellowed “was from the Tennessee state line” over the PA system. Crabtree finished with 31.
On the other hand, Cedar Ridge Coach Clay Jones is balancing life without all-time leading scorer Peyton Pappas, who graduated in May and is now at Catawba. By his own admission, Jones and Pappas had their ups and downs through a four-year relationship. Jones grudgingly accepted the occasional ill-timed technical foul or one-legged off-balance jumper, just as long as Pappas showed up ready to play…which he always did.
In Pappas’ absence, Cedar Ridge doesn’t have a coach on the floor, the thing that Jones loved about Pappas.
With only two seniors on the roster, Cedar Ridge started well against Orange. Center Colby Cashaw scored eight of his ten points in the first quarter and drew two fouls on Panthers center Logan Vosburg. Crabtree was held to five points, yet Orange still led 21-13 going into the second quarter.
In the second quarter, Crabtree found room to create off the dribble, which was bad news for the Red Wolves. Crabtree stuck a three-pointer with 2:42 remaining to put Orange ahead 39-26 at the half.
It would only get worse after a lazy Cedar Ridge turnover led Crabtree to a strip steal and dunk. Seconds later, Crabtree swished a three-pointer to send Motely’s Crew into a frenzy.
Freshman Joey McMullin finished with 16 for Orange, while Vosburg added 12. Junior Mitch Portman added ten.
Freshman center B.J. Freeman led Cedar Ridge with 13 points,. Another freshman, Mekai Collins, added twelve.
Orange (12-4, 5-0) remains in first place in the Big 8 at 5-0. They’re 12-4 overall. With exams this week, they play again Saturday at home against Northwood at 3:30.
Cedar Ridge (6-9, 1-4) will host J.F. Webb Thursday at 7:30 in an effort to keep its playoff hopes alive.
CEDAR RIDGE: Khalil Barnett 4, Terrence Crawford 8, Tahjai Hill-Wells 3, Mekai Collins 12, Colby Cashaw 10, Dmonte Kinney 6, B.J. Freeman 13, Khalil Hill 2.
ORANGE: Mitch Portman 10, Connor Crabtree 31, Joey McMullin 16, Logan Vosburg 12, Marquis Phelps 5, Ryan Sellers 5, Matt Atherton 4, Treshon Richardson 5.