CREEDMOOR–For a young team, the Orange men have enjoyed the sweet taste of victory plenty this season.
Despite regularly playing three freshmen, they’ve already won more games before New Year’s Eve than last year’s squad did all year. By late Thursday night, none of that mattered following a loss delivered in the most sour way imaginable.
Trailing 64-58 with 1:33 remaining, South Granville ended the game on a 9-1 run, ending with backup forward K.J. Green driving the length of the floor to score on a lay-up at the buzzer to lift the Vikings past Orange 67-65 inside Viking Gymnasium in the semifinals of the Columbia Bracket of the South Granville Holiday Invitational.
It was the only time in the game that South Granville (6-3) led. The Vikings will face Wake Forest in the Columbia Bracket championship game on Friday night.
Orange (10-4), who was trying to reach a tournament final for the first time since the 2017 Big 8 Conference Championship, will take on Sanderson in the 3rd place game on Friday afternoon at 5:30.
Not only did Orange go scoreless from the field in the final 1:35, they didn’t even get off a shot. South Granville’s Traevon White stripped the ball away and scored on a breakaway with 1:29 left to cut Orange’s lead to 64-60.
Pressing full court, the Vikings’ Oliver Roberts picked off a pass and drove down the floor to put the Vikings within a bucket.
Green fouled Orange’s Coleman Cloer with 57 seconds remaining. Cloer split a pair from the foul line to increase the Panther lead to 63-60. Granville’s Aidan Gass was fouled with :53.1 left and also went 1-of-2 from the stripe.
Once again, the Vikings’ picked off a pass at midcourt. This time Green intercepted the ball and dropped it off to White, who missed a lay-in. Roberts took the offensive rebound under the rim and laid it in to tie the game.
Orange called timeout with :10.3 left with a chance to take the lead. At that point, Cloer took the ball on the left wing 15 feet away and tried to shoot over a double-team established by Roberts and White. Cloer slightly leaned in and was called for an offensive foul that left the Panther bench baffled and furious.
With :5.1 left, Gass nearly took up all of the five second allotted to find a man to throw the inbounds pass. He found Green, who sprinted up the floor coast-to-coast to beat the clock, laid it in before the buzzer sounded and was immediately mobbed by the South Granville student section in the end zone.
It was the second straight rally for South Granville in its own holiday tournament. The previous night, they came back from 14-point down to beat Cary.
It was a punishing loss for Britt, who walked along an adjacent hallway around five minutes to mentally regroup before addressing his crushed team. Well after most of the crowd had left the crowded gym, Britt was still fuming over the Cloer offensive foul.
“I never got an explanation for that call,” Britt said. “They wouldn’t talk to me. It’s part of being a young team. I don’t like to make excuses for losing games, but this was a poorly officiated game from the very beginning. Unfortunately, we couldn’t beat the five guys on the floor and the crowd.”
Ryan Honeycutt and freshman Kai Wade led Orange with 16 points each. Cloer finished with 14 while sophomore Xandrell Pennix had 12.
Roberts led all scorers with 18 points, all in the second half. Roberts had 17.
Britt has taken Orange to the South Granville tournament twice before. This was the first time he felt the Panthers could make a run to the championship. For the first 35 minutes of the game, his team lived up to expectations.
The Panthers led by as many as 12 points in the second half. The game wasn’t tied until the final minute. At the end of the third quarter, Orange inbounded with :5.1 left. Cloer took the ball down the floor and found Pennix, who drained a 3-pointer at the buzzer to put the Panthers ahead 58-49.
In the second quarter, Honeycutt knocked down a 10-footer to put the Panthers ahead 31-22 with 3:53 remaining. Pennix drained a pull-up jumper, followed by a stickback from Honeycutt to put the Panthers ahead 35-24. Honeycutt had 12 points in the first half.
It was the second time in five years that the Vikings beat the Panthers at the buzzer. On 2017, the Vikings beat Orange 65-63 in Viking Gymnasium.