Pagnanelli’s free throws pushes Cedar Ridge past Orange 51-48

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Updated: February 6, 2021

At this time two years ago, the Cedar Ridge men’s basketball team was counting the days to a merciful end of an interminable 1-23 season.

The sophomores on that team included Ian Johnson, Luke Pagnanelli, Grady Ray and Sam Garbee. On February 1, 2019, they lost to Orange 74-49 inside Panther Gymnasium. It was their eighth loss to the Panthers in the last nine meetings.

If you had told any of those players it would be their last loss against Orange ever, you probably have gotten some strange looks and perhaps even laughter.

But the atmosphere around Cedar Ridge men’s basketball has changed and the balance of basketball power across Hillsborough has undeniably shifted to the west end of town.

The Red Wolves defeated the Panthers 51-48 on Friday night at Orange Gymnasium. It was Cedar Ridge’s fourth consecutive win over Orange. Pagnanelli sank two free throws with 1:09 remaining after he stole the ball from Orange in the open court and was fouled in transition.

It was Pagnanelli’s only free throws of the game.

“It was my last game against Orange,” Pagnanelli said. “We just had to come out firing early. They started falling.”

In a frantic final minute, Orange’s Jason Franklin missed a one-handed runner, which was rebounded by Johntez Raspberry. Cedar Ridge’s Neco Clark, with Cedar Ridge leading 49-48, missed a shot, which was rebounded by Devin Corbett with 15.9 seconds remaining. Orange’s Jerec Thompson missed a 3-pointer, leading to Johnson canning two free throws for the margin of victory.

“At the end of practice, Coach Brooks makes us shoot free throws,” Johnson said. “I get a little competitive with Garrett Ray because we typically compete in free throw contests at the end of practice. He usually beats me, but I got them to go in tonight.”

Orange’s final points came off a 15-footer by Thompson with 3:53 remaining.

The Panthers missed a desperation three-pointer at the buzzer. Orange, which is now 0-6, last won a game against Northern Durham on February 14, 2020.

Thompson led orange with 23 points. It was Orange’s second game in two days. On Thursday, the Panthers led by as many as 15 points against Southern Durham (and by 12 at the half) before falling 64-52. Franklin scored 24 against the Spartans, but was held to six against the Red Wolves.

Cedar Ridge (3-5) will host Northern Durham on Tuesday. With only the initial meetings between league rivals being counted as conference games this year, Cedar Ridge has two conference games remaining against Southern Durham and Vance County. They can play as many as six more games, but Friday’s game against Orange will be the last time they see their crosstown rivals this season.

Jerec Thompson flat-out shot Orange into a double-digit lead early. Thompson scored 15 of Orange’s first 19 points as the Panthers led 19-12 at the end of the first quarter.

Franklin opened the second quarter with two free throws, followed by a three-pointer by Ryan Moss, which pushed the Orange lead to 24-12.

It was reminiscent of the first matchup between the two teams on January 11, when Orange built a 19-point lead, only to have the Red Wolves charge back to win in overtime.

This time, Cedar Ridge erased the 12-point deficit before halftime. It started when Johnson sank a three-pointer, followed by another from Pagnanelli that forced an Orange time out. Pagnanelli knocked down two more field goals, and a three-pointer from Clark pushed Cedar Ridge ahead 28-27 at the half.

With the scored tied going into the fourth quarter, Jerec Thompson knocked down a three-pointer to put Orange in the lead, which was followed by another trey from J.J. Thompson.

“I was nervous, but I knew we could come back,” Pagnanelli said. “We came back on them the last time. We have a good team and I thought we were going to win it down the stretch.”

Not to be outdone, Cedar Ridge tied the game with consecutive three-pointers from Pagnanelli and Johnson to even the game at 46.

It is the longest winning streak Cedar Ridge has ever had against Orange in the history of the rivalry, which started in 2002.

Orange will play its final Big 8 Conference game against Vance County on Saturday, its third game in three days.

CEDAR RIDGE 51, ORANGE 48

CEDAR RIDGE: Ian Johnson 14, Luke Pagnanelli 22, Neco Clark 10, Garrett Ray 3, A.J. Richmond 2.

ORANGE: Jerec Thompson 23, J.J. Thompson 6, Jason Franklin 6, Kyle Stanley 2, Hunter Birch 5, Ryan Moss 5, Devin Corbett 1.

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