Pagnanelli makes All-Big 8 for Cedar Ridge; Franklin, Thompson honored for Orange

Updated: March 8, 2021

Another travesty in a long line of injustices created by the pandemic was that it robbed Cedar Ridge senior guard Luke Pagnanelli of his senior night.

As a sophomore, Pagnanelli endured a 1-23 season. Two years later, the Red Wolves swept crosstown rival Orange and was competitive against Northwood, who were merely go on to play in the 3A State Championship game.

Cedar Ridge was supposed to honor Pagnanelli, James Ragland, Ian Johnson, Samuel Garabee, A.J. Richmond and Grady Ray during a Senior Night game against Southern Durham on February 19. Sadly, that game never came to fruition because the Red Wolves wound up in quarantine for the final week of the season. Its final two games against Southern and Vance County were canceled.

Even with a smaller crowd, the Cedar Ridge seniors deserved their night to go out on after staying dedicated to the program for four years. On Monday, Pagnanelli got some consolation when he was named to the All-Big 8 Conference team.

Orange High junior guard Jerec Thompson and senior forward Jason Franklin were also named to the All-Big 8 team.

Pagnanelli saved his best moments in clutch wins over Orange and Northern Durham. On February 5, Pagnanelli sank two free throws with 1:09 after he stole the ball from Orange in the open court and was fouled in transition. Those were his only free throws of the game and they turned out to be the game-winning points. Pagnanelli finished with 22.

The only thing more clutch than Pagnanelli’s second game against Orange in 2021 may have been his first.

On January 11, Cedar Ridge trailed 49-31 with 2:34 remaining in the third quarter, but stormed back to win 67-66 in overtime, thanks to a 24-7 run to finish regulation. Pagnanelli scored the opening two field goals in overtime and finished with 17 points and five rebounds.

Four days later, it what turned out to be his final home game, Pagnanelli scored 22 points as the Red Wolves held on to defeat Northern Durham 55-52. Pagnanelli shot 7-of-13 from the floor, including 2-of-4 from 3-point range.

Franklin was a four-year varsity player for the Panthers who played regularly as a freshmen. On February 6, Franklin led Orange with 13 points in a 35-32 overtime win over East Chapel Hill, who captured the Big 8 Conference Championship. Franklin scored on a lay-in with 2:59 remaining in overtime to put Orange ahead for good. Franklin helped Orange battle back from a 29-22 deficit with a 3-pointer late in regulation to give the Panthers the lead.

Franklin opened the season by scoring 20 points each in games against East Chapel Hill, Cedar Ridge and Northwood. He had a season-high 24 points against Vance County on February 6, which was the Panthers’ first win of the season.

Franklin, who also plays on the Orange men’s soccer team, was one of two seniors on the team, along with Kyle Stanley.

Thompson was a reliable sharp shooting guard who was capable of giving Orange big leads early if he was hot. In early February, the Panthers played three games in three days, and built double digit leads in the first half of each of them.

But his best performance came at Vance County.

In a 65-62 victory in Henderson, Thompson scored 16 points in the opening quarter, 23 in the first half and wound up with a career-high 32. He scored 16 of Orange’s first 18 points against the Vipers. Thompson also had 23 points in a 72-58 loss to Chapel Hill on January 20.

Cedar Ridge’s Neco Clark and Ian Johnson were named honorable mention All-Big 8. Clark scored 19 points in the Red Wolves victory over Orange on January 11. Johnson had a season-high 14 points against Orange in the Red Wolves’ victory at Orange.

Orange point guard J.J. Thompson was also named honorable mention. Thompson started the season by scoring a season-high 12 points at East Chapel Hill. As a point guard on a team that usually suited up just eight players, Thompson often played 30 minutes a night, at least.

East Chapel Hill’s Will Tyndall was name the Big 8 Player of the Year.

East Chapel Hill’s Ray Hartsfield, in his 24th season as head coach of the Wildcats, was named Big 8 Coach of the Year. Hartsfield led East Chapel Hill to the Big 8 title after going three consecutive seasons with a losing record.

Northwood, who was among the last teams to make the 3A State Playoffs yet won the Eastern Regional Championship, was honored with the sportsmanship award.

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