GIBSONVILLE–B.J. Condron will be in a tie and slacks on the sidelines Wednesday night.
That’s not an everyday occurrence for his Orange women’s basketball team. Or even a monthly one.
The first time he wore a tie as a head coach was on December 31, 2015. It was Condron’s first tournament championship game. Going into the Eastern Alamance Holiday Hoops Tournament in Mebane, Condron promised his team if they reached the championship game, he would show up better attired than usual.
Sure enough, after Orange defeated Cardinal Gibbons in the semifinals, Condron used a few gift cards he received for Christmas and purchased new threads at Tanger Outlets. He not only coached in a tie that night, he also celebrated in one.
Games come and go in basketball, but playing for a tournament championship is special. So Condron sets the tone.
Condron’s current edition of the Orange women’s basketball team reached a holiday tournament championship game for the first time since 2018 on Tuesday night and gained a measure of revenge in the process.
Orange, just eleven days after losing to Central Carolina Conference rival Walter Williams, defeated the Bulldogs 53-47 in the semifinals of the Eastern Guilford Holiday Invitational. The Lady Panthers will face Northeast Guilford in the championship game on Wednesday night at 7.
Senior center Erin Jordan-Cornell, who missed the first game against Williams, had 14 points for the Panthers (6-8). Sophomore forward Evelyn George also scored 14.
Orange reached its first championship final in any tournament since 2018, when they played for the championship of the Granville Central Christmas Tournament. Ravenscroft defeated Orange for the title.
On December 18, Williams held off Orange 49-45 in Burlington.
“We came out in the first half ready to play,” Condron said. “Obviously, having Erin back helped us out a lot. We got shaky at the end. Williams did a heck of a job pressuring us and making shots. We were lucky to make some free throws, but not all, and close it out.”
The Bulldogs, who had defeated Orange four straight times, made a furious comeback after trailing by as many as 14 points in the second half. Briahna Scott, who appeared to be on a one-woman mission to lead the Bulldogs into the championship game, had 20 points for Williams, 13 in the fourth quarter.
George scored ten points in the first half and knocked down some crucial free throws in the final minutes after the Bulldogs narrowed Orange’s lead. George, a sophomore, is the team’s leading rebounder who had 13 against the Burlington School on Monday.
“I think Evelyn has an instinct for the ball,” Condron said. “When you watch her, I think she tries to position herself on defense and anticipate when the shot goes up. She can jump. We have tall players, but in terms of a vertical leap, she’s one of our best jumpers.”
Orange didn’t have a field goal in the opening 4:43 of the fourth quarter, which allowed the Bulldogs to climb within five points after a lay-in by Jordan Taylor. Lady Panthers Sophomore Addie Atkins responded with a clutch three-pointer, her second of the game, to bring Orange’s lead back to nine points.
Scott wouldn’t let the Bulldogs die quietly. She scored off a strip and steal for a lay-in, then stole the subsequent inbounds pass, was fouled and sank two free throws to cut the Orange lead to 46-41 with 2:46 remaining.
Williams missed various opportunities to draw closer, including several shots from point-blank range. Orange’s Nikayla Whitted made them pay with a dagger of a 3-pointer with 1:30 remaining to extend Orange’s lead to 49-41.
Orange played its best half of the season in the opening 16 minutes. After senior Jada Reed fed Whitted on a lay-in to complete a 2-on-1, Orange led 22-11. Williams coach Jason Cheek immediately called timeout and turned his volume tone to 11 in a full-throttled scolding of his team audible to everyone within the gym.
Seven different Lady Panthers scored in the first half. There were three lead changes in the opening four minutes, but Orange didn’t trail again after the first quarter.
ORANGE 53, WILLIAMS 47
ORANGE: Evelyn George 14, Erin Jordan-Cornell 14, Jada Reed 3, Nikayla Whitted 7, Addie Atkins 8, Maura McMurtry 3, Marshea Byrd 2, Katelyn Van Mater 2.
WILLIAMS: Kamryn Russell 8, Jainasia Bailey 8, Scout Winter 3, Briahna Scott 20, Regan Averett 2, Jordan Taylor 6.