Month: December 2022

Orange men’s basketball looks for New Year’s Treat in South Granville Holiday Tournament

The Orange men’s basketball program will start action today in the South Granville Holiday Invitational Tournament playing the program’s best basketball in years.

The last time the Panthers went into holiday break with a winning record, it was 2019. The Panthers were 7-1, fresh off a whopping 50-point win over East Chapel Hill in its conference opener. They followed with a victory over Walter Williams, the defending 3A Eastern Regional champions.

It appeared Orange would be the favorite to win in Creedmoor. Instead, the worst-case scenario unfolded over the course of three days.

Orange shockingly lost to Sanderson, Franklinton and Green Hope. The Panthers, who went into the event ranked in the MaxPreps top ten among 3A Eastern Regional teams, lost a key player for the season days later, never recovered and finished 10-15.

Needless to say, it’s not an experience that Panthers head coach Derryl Britt wants to endure again.

Orange will face East Wake in the opening game of the Columbia Bracket tonight at 7 PM at South Granville High School. The winner will face South Granville or Cary in the semifinals on Thursday.

Wake Forest, Northern Durham, Green Level and Sanderson complete the eight-team field.

Orange hasn’t been to the final of a holiday tournament since 2016, when they defeated Eastern Guilford to win the Eastern Guilford Holiday Invitational on the Wildcats’ own floor in Gibsonville.

Last year, the Panthers finished third in the Navy Bracket at South Granville. After falling to Cary in the semifinals, the Panthers defeated Granville Central in the 3rd place game. Orange senior guard Jerec Thompson was named MVP of the Navy Bracket.

Of all of Britt’s teams that he’s taken into a Christmas event, this is easily the most unique. For Orange’s top four scorers, this will be their first taste of holiday tournament basketball.

Coleman Cloer (17.7 points per game) and Kai Wade (10 ppg) are freshmen. Sophomore Xandrell Pennix (10.8 points per game) wasn’t called up to the varsity level until Orange’s game against Person in January. Junior center Ryan Honeycutt (9 points per game) is in the midst of his first varsity season. Mason Robinson, who had seven blocks in Orange’s win over Walter Williams on December 16, is also a freshman.

Most of Orange’s veterans with tournament experience have come off the bench this year. Last week, junior Ryan Moss played his first game of the season after undergoing surgery for a torn meniscus in September.He scored nine points, all off 3-pointers, in a win over Southern Alamance.

“I commend all five of my seniors,” Britt said. “They are the captains of this team. They really do lead the team. The fact that they don’t play as much as the younger guys, they don’t let it bother them. They knew it was going to be that way coming into this season. The fact that they accepted those roles and I can’t say enough about them.”

The youth movement has led to results. Orange (9-3) has already surpassed its win total from last season. The Panthers won at Walter Williams for the first time in over 35 years earlier this month and are still the only team to have defeated Franklinton, who are 8-1.

“We haven’t had a team this formidable going to South Granville,” Britt said. “Last year, we went over there and finished 2-1, which is what you want to do in a quality tournament like that. Our goal this year is to reach the championship game.”

The Columbia Bracket is full of familiar faces for Orange. Cary defeated Orange 69-64 in the semifinals last year. Wake Forest ran past Orange 65-47 on December 3. If the Cougars and the Panthers have a rematch, it would be in the championship game.

Northern Durham is a former Big 8 Conference rival that moved up to 4A at the end of the 2021 academic year.




Orange Panther of the Week: Dillon Heffernan

This week’s Orange Panther of the Week is senior wrestler Dillon Heffernan. On December 17, Heffernan captured the 145-pound championship in the Eastern Alamance Eagle Invitational in Mebane. Heffernan’s victory helped the Orange wrestling team finish first in the event. Last week, Heffernan came in fifth at the Tiger Holiday Classic in Chapel Hill, one of the most prestigious tournaments in the region. Heffernan reached the semifinals after opening the tournament with wins over Will McRae of William Hough High and Noah Ramirez of Jack Britt. Heffernan is 18-3 with eight pins so far this season. He is undefeated in dual matches. Heffernan finished 2nd in the Jim King/Orange Invitational earlier this month. Last season, Heffernan went 26-9 and qualified for the 3A State Championships in the 126-pound division. Heffernan finished 2nd in the Mideast Regional in 2021. As a sophomore, Heffernan qualified for the 3A State Championships during the pandemic and finished his sophomore year with a record of 18-4. He has been a member of two conference championship teams with Orange. He was a starter on an Orange team that advanced to the 3A Eastern Regional Championship match in the State Dual Team Championships last February. This Saturday, the Panthers will compete in the West Stanly Duals to finish out 2022.

Lopez becomes 1st Orange female wrestler to win tournament match

Over the course of one of the most prestigious wrestling tournaments in the southeast last week, Orange sophomore Daisy Lopez made history. Lopez became the first female wrestler to win a tournament match for Orange. In the consolation bracket of the 126-pound division of the Chapel Hill Women’s Classic, Lopez pinned Mirabelle Chi of East Chapel Hill in 2:24. After Chi scored the opening takedown of the match, Lopez notched her first win of the season with a reversal and guided Chi’s shoulders to the mat. She went on to finish fourth, becoming the first Orange female wrestler to place in a tournament. Lopez is believed to be the second female wrestler in Orange history. She started in wrestling last year when a friend suggested trying it out. Despite some apprehension from those close to her, Lopez continues to progress with one of the most storied and successful programs in the state. Last year, Lopez won a match via forfeit. She will continue to work during the intense training designed by Orange wrestling coach Spenser Poteat as the Panthers search for another conference championship. With women’s wrestling gaining traction across North Carolina high schools annually, Lopez’s win at Chapel Hill last week will become an important benchmark in Orange wrestling history.

Jordan-Cornell, Whitted push Orange women past Burlington School in Eastern Guilford Tournament

Through the first half of the season, it’s been a tall task for the Orange women’s basketball team to get healthy. With one key reserve out for the year with a knee injury, they probably never will be.

For the first time in two weeks, the Lady Panthers did have its senior starting front line available for the start of the Eastern Guilford Holiday Basketball Tournament, which led to the end of its four-game losing streak.

Behind senior center Erin Jordan-Cornell, who finished with eleven points, eight rebounds and six assists, the Lady Panthers survived a late rally to defeat The Burlington School 54-44 in the opening round of the eight-team tournament on Monday morning in Gibsonville.

Orange (5-8) advances to face Central Carolina Conference rival Walter Williams in the semifinals on Tuesday afternoon. Williams defeated Reidsville 75-50 in the opening round.

The victory marked Orange’s fourth straight win in the Eastern Guilford Tournament. Last year, the event was simply comprised of three games as opposed to a full-fledged tournament. In 2021, Orange defeated Reidsville, Eastern Guilford and Northeast Guilford, the last of which was coach B.J. Condron’s 100th career win.

Jordan-Cornell’s 6-foot-1 frame was able to pass over the smaller Spartans and frequently found sophomore Evelyn George for the game’s biggest baskets. George, who finished with eight points and 14 rebounds, opened the game with a lay-in off a feed from Jordan-Cornell. George canned Orange’s only 3-pointer of the first half off a pass from senior Jada Reed to put the Lady Panthers ahead 7-0 with 4:41 remaining in the first quarter.

Jordan-Cornell connected on consecutive field goals in the second quarter, the latter off a pass from Reed to give Orange its largest lead at 22-8.

The Burlington School coach Porsha Graves started pressing in the second half, which drew the Spartans closer.  Guard Xiomara Moser banked in a 3-pointer to start a 9-2 run. Kiya Shavers, who finished with 21 points, hit back-to-back field goals to draw the Spartans to 37-33 with 7:27 remaining.

Afer Kamilah Moore hit a free throw, George beat the Spartans full-court press and passed to Jordan-Cornell, who scored on a lay-in. Reed followed with a steal as she picked the ball away from Aaliyah Coley and laid it in to extend Orange’s lead to 41-37. Following another 3-pointer from Shavers, Nikayla Whitted hit Jordan-Cornell for another lay-up.

A minute later, Jordan-Cornell would return the favor with a permitter dish to Whitted for a three-pointer. Sophomore Maura McMurtry, in her first varsity season, drained a shot from downtown to return the Lady Panther lead to double-digits at 50-39 with 3:49 remaining.

Orange had 19 field goals on 14 assists.

Whitted and Jordan-Cornell each had eleven points to lead Orange. Reed added ten points. Atkins, another first-year varsity player, finished with seven points and six rebounds.

With the win, Orange set up a rematch against Williams. On December 16, the Bulldogs outlasted Orange 50-45 at Bulldogs Gymnasium in what may have been the Lady Panthers’ best game of the year. Orange played without Jordan-Cornell and guard Shannon Murphy, but was still tied with the Bulldogs 32-32 at the end of three quarters.

Most of Orange’s production came outside the arc. They shot 8-of-21 from 3-point range. Atkins had a career-high 12 points, including 4-of-6 shooting from deep. Reed finished with 13 points, but the Bulldogs Bri Scott proved to be the key factor with 16 points as the Bulldogs defeated Orange for the fourth straight time.

The winner of the Orange-Williams game will play in the championship game on Wednesday night at 7PM. Orange’s last holiday tournament championship came in 2016, the most successful Lady Panthers women’s team in school history. Orange captured the Eastern Alamance Holiday Hoops championship with wins over Southern Alamance, Cardinal Gibbons and Bartlett Yancey in Mebane. The win over the Buccaneers came on December 31, 2016, which the team posting for a championship photo just hours before they rang in the new year.


Lloyd named Central Carolina Conference Volleyball Player of the Year; five Red Wolves named All-CCC

Considering everything she accomplished in her Cedar Ridge career, it may seem surprising that Cameron Lloyd hasn’t won a conference player of the year award until now.

Yet Lloyd was honored as the Central Carolina Conference Volleyball Player of the Year earlier this month for the first time. Lloyd was one of five Cedar Ridge players to be named All-CCC.

Joining Lloyd on the All-Conference team was senior middle blocker Cameron Lanier, senior setter Julie Altieri, libero Grace Young and outside hitter Melissa Benkowitz.

Together, Lloyd, Lanier, Altieri, Young and Benkowitz ended their Cedar Ridge careers with three consecutive conference championships. Lloyd, Lanier and Altieri, all of whom started as freshman, ended their career with a cumulative record of 83-11. They won 40 consecutive games against conference opponents and became the first female team to win a state championship in Cedar Ridge history when they captured the 2021 state championship.

This year, Cedar Ridge won 25 consecutive matches. Its only two losses came against J.H. Rose, who defeated the Red Wolves in its season-opener and in the Eastern Regional Championship match in Greenville.

Lloyd, who set the school record for career kills in her junior season, had 346 kills in her senior season. It was 14 kills shy of her school single-season record of 360 set in 2021. Lloyd, who committed to Bucknell in August, had a career-high 243 digs. She had ten games where she finished with double-digit kills, including a season-high 20 in a sweep of Southern Alamance on September 14. In her final match at Cedar Ridge, Lloyd had seven kills against Wilson Hunt in the state quarterfinals.

Altieri, the all-time assist lead in school history, is also the all-time leader in assists. This season, Altieri had 479 assists and 38 aces. Against Hunt, with Cedar Ridge trailing 23-20 in the final set, Altieri served the Red Wolves out with back-to-back aces. She assisted on the final two points, the last she would score in Hillsborough, as the Red Wolves won its tenth consecutive playoff match. Altieri ended her career with 1,978 assists and 213 aces.

Lanier, who committed to Elon, had 165 kills in her senior year. She finished with 671 career kills, the second-highest total in school history. Lanier had a season-high 14 kills against Orange on September 6, on a night where the Red Wolves were without Benkowitz. On August 27, Lanier had eleven kills in a sweep of Green Level, the 2021 4A State Champions, in Garner. Lanier also finished with 33 blocks, which led the team.

Young, in her third varsity season, committed to UNC Asheville last year. She led the team with 292 digs and finished her career with 623 digs. Young had a career-high 86 assists as she would occasionally play as a setter. She had a season-high 24 digs in the second round of the 3A State Playoffs against Orange. She also had 21 digs against Walter Williams on October 11. She is currently playing basketball for head coach Megan Skouby, who is also an assistant in volleyball.

Benkowitz, who transferred from East Chapel Hill at the beginning of 2021, provided a priceless attacking presence for the Red Wolves to take the load off of Lloyd and Lanier. Benkowitz was third on the team with 143 kills. Over the course of her two seasons with Cedar Ridge, Benkowitz had 331 kills with 75 aces, 325 digs and 346 service receptions. This season, Benkowitz had three matches where she finished with double-digit kills. She had a career-high eleven kills against Walter Williams on October 11. She also had ten kills in a sweep of Person on September 22, as well as ten kills against Eastern Alamance on October 4.

Cedar Ridge only had three matches all season where they dropped a set. After the 3-1 loss to Rose to open the season, the Red Wolves won its subsequent 20 matches without dropping a set. Overall, they won 62 straight sets before dropping the third set against Orange in the Central Carolina Conference tournament championship match on October 19.




The Magnificent 7: Christmas Time is Here

Some things never change. Sitting in the stands of the Tiger Holiday Classic at Chapel Hill High School on Friday afternoon, I saw South View wrestling coach Cam Spence, an old friend who I got to know 25 years ago at Appalachian State University.

I was a late bloomer when I arrived in Boone, which made me ripe for age jokes. Cam, who was a teenager when I met him, doesn’t lack in that regard. Once, on our way to a football game at Auburn, Cam said “My girlfriend asked me if I was going antique shopping on our way through Atlanta. I told her we were picking Jeff up at noon.”

Naturally, Cam was still making age jokes as we watched the matches unfold on Friday. As old as I may get, I hope I never lose the special feeling I get at this time of year. I still look forward to Christmas. The Christmas music. The Charlie Brown Christmas Special. The holiday basketball tournaments. The Chapel Hill Tiger wrestling invitational.

And lots and lots of giving.

My Spotify playlist shifts to the Vince Guraldi Trio every December and largely stays that way for the entire month. I’m proud to say that after all this time, I’ve never had a case of holiday depression. I know not everyone is as fortunate, so anyone who may feel south of happy right now, my thoughts are with you.

Hopefully, my enthusiasm for the holidays is something else that never changes, just like Cam’s age jokes.

And a very happy holiday to all of you. Here’s the Magnificent 7 for the week of December 3-10.

  1.  Zoey Moreno, Jr., Cedar Ridge wrestling: Moreno made history at the Green Hope Girls Grapple in Cary,. On December 3, Moreno became the first female wrestler in the history of Hillsbrough to win a tournament. Moreno captured the 120-pound championship with pins in all three of her matches. Moreno defeated Ava Lytle of Wakefield in 33 seconds to take the championship.
  2.  Luke Roman, Soph, Orange Swimming: Set the school record in the 200 yard freestyle in the opening event of swimming season at the Orange County Sportsplex. Roman also qualified for regionals in the 100 yard freestyle. He also qualified for regionals in two relay events. Last year, Roman finished eighth in the 3A State Championships in the 200 yard freestyle.
  3.  Amiyah Ware, Jr. Cedar Ridge women’s basketball: Talk about making an instant impact. Ware, in her second game in a Red Wolves uniform, scored 18 points as the Red Wolves defeated Person 58-27 on December 9. It was Cedar Ridge’s first conference win since February 8, 2019. Ware, a transfer from Burlington School, also had a solid game against East Chapel Hill on December 6
  4. Nikayla Whitted, Sr. Orange women’s basketball: Led the Lady Panthers in scoring with 14 points in a 41-36 win over Carrboro on December 6. Three nights later, Whitted had six points as the Lady Panthers defeated Durham School of the Arts 72-34. Whitted also led Orange in scoring in a win over Riverside on December 2.
  5. Sam Crawford, Sr. Orange wrestling: Earned three wins during the Orange quad on December 7. On a night where the Panthers were shorthanded, Crawford scored a major decision over Gabriel Waterhouse of Chapel Hill 15-3. He also Justin Hartsell of Cedar Ridge as the Panthers maintained its undefeated record in dual matches.
  6. Kai Wade, Fr., Orange men’s basketball: Scored 15 points in Orange’s 69-35 win over Durham School of the Arts on December 9. Wade also had eight points, three assists and three steals in the Panthers 76-46 win over Carrboro. Wade is one of three freshmen who have started this year for an Panthers team that has already surpassed its win total from last year.
  7. Quinn McCrimmon, Jr., Cedar Ridge women’s swimming: McCrimmon qualified for regionals in Cedar Ridge’s opening dual meets of the season. She finished first in the 200 yard individual medley with a time of 2:34.15. She also earned consideration for regionals in the 100 yard freestyle with a time of 1:05.05. The Red Wolves women’s swimming team won its opening dual match over Eastern Alamance.

Orange’s Roman sets school record to open swim season

A year after he qualified for five different events in the 3A State Swimming championships, Luke Roman has already printed his name in the record book to start his sophomore season.

In the opening dual match of the season, Roman set the Orange High record in the 200 yard freestyle at the Orange County Sportsplex in Hillsborough. Competing against Northwood and Eastern Alamance, Roman established a new school mark of 1:51.69, instantly qualifying him for the Mideast Regionals.

Roman also qualified for regionals in three other events to open the season. In the 100 yard freestyle, Roman beat out Eastern Alamance’s Jesse Sikes for first place. Roman’s time of 51.51 seconds was well ahead of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association standard of 54.99. Sikes also automatically qualified.

The quartet of Roman, Alex Andre, Evan Phillips and Nick Baczara qualified for regionals in two different events. In the 400 yard freestyle relay, they captured first place with a time of 3:39.64. In the 200 yard medley, Andre, Roman, Phillips and Baczara finished first at 1:48.65, the only team among four who automatically qualified for regionals.

Last year, Roman, Andre, Phillips and Baczara finished ninth in the 3A State Championships in the 400 yard freestyle relay.

In those same state championships, Roman finished 8th in the 200 yard freestyle. In all, Roman qualified for the state championships in four relay races, as well as the 200 yard freestyle individually.

In the 200 yard medley relay last year, Roman, Phillips, Andre and Ian Moore (now graduated) finished 8th in the state championships.

In all, five Orange men’s swimmers qualified for regionals in individual events. Andre, a sophomore, captured the 50 yard freestyle at 23.84 seconds, edging Sikes. In the 100 yard butterfly, Andre swam a qualifying time of 58.70 seconds, finishing second behind Eastern Alamance’s Owen Sawyer, who touched the wall at 55.84 seconds.

Baczara also earned a spot in regionals in the 100 yard butterfly, finishing third at 59.52 seconds.

Phillips earned a spot in regionals in two different events. Phillips won the 100 yard breaststroke at 1:05.07. He finished second in the 200 yard individual medley at 2:08.20. Northwood’s Wiley Sikes took first place. Orange senior Andrew Weeks finished third, but also earned a spot in regional in the 200 medley at 2:24.70.

Weeks also got a bid to regionals in the 100 yard backstroke, winning the 100 yard backstroke at 1:03.00.

In the women’s events, Orange’s Katie Belle Sikes, the defending 3A State Champion in the 50 meter freestyle, immediately qualified for regionals in her top event. Sikes, who committed to the University of Georgia during the fall, cruised to victory with a time of 23.48 seconds. Last February, Sikes became the first female swimmer from Orange to win a state championship at 23.24 seconds, which earned her consideration as an All-American.

Sikes also qualified for the 100 yard freestyle with a victorious time of 52.73 seconds.

The relay team of Sikes, junior Riley White, freshman Piper White and freshman Ainsley Rasinske qualified for regionals in two different events. They won the 200 yard medley relay with a time of 2:00.96. They also won the 400 yard freestyle relay (4:03.31).

Piper White, in her first varsity race, qualified for the 200 yard freestyle with a winning time of 2:04.73.

Junior Riley White won the 100 yard backstroke at 1:04.51. She also captured the 100 yard butterfly at 1:03.36.

Rasinske qualified in the 500 yard freestyle. She finished second with a time of 6:31.36 in her first varsity race. Northwood’s Bianca Perez came in first place at 5:56.59.

On the night, the Orange men’s team won both of its dual matches. The Panthers outscored Northwood 209-97. Orange also defeated Eastern Alamance 225-81.

in the women’s dual matches, Orange won 110-43 over Northwood. The Lady Panthers defeated Eastern Alamance 113-41.

The 3A Central Regionals will be held at the Greensboro Aquatic Center on February 2.


Two Cents from the Franklin Mint: To Cheer or Not to Cheer

By Jon Franklin

The 2022 volleyball season saw the Cedar Ridge Lady Wolves and Orange Lady Panthers engage in some memorable moments. But it also resulted in an unnecessary overreach affecting the game day experience.

At the 3A Eastern Regional Final in Greenville on November 1, the Cedar Ridge reign as defending state champions ended abruptly by the J.H. Rose Rampants. During the first set, play was halted several times as game officials determined that serves were being disrupted from both sides as a result of spectators making noise and allegedly making comments that were considered “demeaning, defamatory, and/or unsportsmanlike”.

Rose athletic director Clay Medlin and Cedar Ridge AD Andy Simmons were summoned to the chair as the officials directed their respective student sections to maintain decorum and not make noise during service. When this conventional method proved futile, play was stopped again. Medlin upped the ante and used the public address system to inform the patrons in “The Rose Garden” that silence must be observed on all serve attempts or face removal from the building. While not fully adhered, it did allow the game to continue without interruption.

This wasn’t the first time that a Cedar Ridge volleyball game was stopped due to “fan verbal interference”.

A similar incident also took place this season at the HighSchoolOT Invitational in Garner. The silly barking and meowing from The Wolfpack prompted Garner’s director of athletics to personally shut down Cedar Ridge’s fans. I’ve also been informed that Orange volleyball games have been affected as well.

From my chair as public address announcer, play-by-play announcer, color analyst, or fan, I’ve observed five different occurrences since 2019 where officials stopped play to a Cedar Ridge volleyball match either due to “fan verbal interference” or even to prevent me from performing public address duties.

From my research and from asking several volleyball coaches about this issue, there are no rules in the volleyball handbook that prevents fans from making noise during volleyball service – as officially issued by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) or the North Carolina High School Athletic Association.

However, the NFHS puts out “Points of Emphasis”. These released bullet points stem from the NFHS volleyball rulebook about what needs to be enforced during games. The 2022 “Point of Emphasis” under ‘Sportsmanship’ ( contained this excerpt:

Sportsmanship, or good sporting behavior, is about treating one another with respect and exhibiting appropriate behavior. It is about being fair, honest and caring. When these types of appropriate behavior occur, competitive play is more enjoyable for everyone.


Coaches set the tone at athletic contests with their display of sportsmanship. If these individuals act in a sportsmanlike manner, their behavior sets the tone for players, spectators and others. If coaches, however, are complaining constantly about the decision of contest officials, spectators are more likely to do the same.


There must be a collaborative, working relationship between contest officials and game administration to promote good sportsmanship and safely conduct the contest. Everyone has their roles to play in creating a positive, sportsmanlike atmosphere at contests.

Officials should focus on the actions of players, coaches and other bench/sideline personnel. A positive, open line of communication between officials and coaches ultimately results in a better contest for everyone involved.


Contest officials, however, should never engage with spectators who are exhibiting unsporting behavior. Once the contest begins, school administration is responsible for dealing with unruly spectators. A proactive approach by school administration includes monitoring the behavior of spectators and intervening as needed.


If spectators are using demeaning or profane language at officials – or at others in the stands – those individuals should be removed from the contest by school administration…

No matter where I have been, egregiously bad spectator behavior has always been dealt with by a school’s administration or game management personnel. Whether an official reprimand or a removal took place, schools generally and genuinely know how to nip unwarranted behavior in the bud. Yet, nowhere in my 30 years of announcing and 35 years of being a fan of high school athletics have I seen game officials arbitrarily create rules that simply do not exist. In the instances of “fan verbal interference”, coaches have pressed the officials to go to the rulebook to see where such rules actually exist. Instead, officials pushed back stating it “violated sportsmanship rules” without citing what they actually were.

On several occasions, I was temporarily stopped from announcing citing a misinterpretation of an actual rule that forbids music and announcements from being made during live game action. In Cedar Ridge’s 2021 game versus D.H. Conley in Hillsborough, the floor umpire stopped the game several times in the first set citing the misinterpreted rule. I remained silent until midway through the set when AD Simmons discussed the issue with the chair umpire. Through AD Simmons’ advocacy, the chair umpire agreed that I could announce as long as it was not during play and must cease at the ready for serve whistle. Had these officials actually been to any of the games I had previously announced, they would have seen and heard that I never announce or play music during live game action to begin with.

To be completely honest, what is being seen by game officials and the NCHSAA are good volleyball programs are starting to emulate collegiate environments with music, cheering, chanting, and the use of a public address announcer. While most schools do not have these things for volleyball, having them might seem overwhelming for some officials and feel they are losing control of the match. Perhaps they should take field trips to J.H. Rose, D.H. Conley, North Iredell, Fred T. Foard, Kings Mountain, Enka, West Henderson and other North Carolina volleyball powerhouses to see how their energetic game day experiences in volleyball can be managed.

In both instances, NCHSAA game officials have created or inserted rules to where no rules are given or are vague. Yet, these rules are not enforced with any consistency. What took place between Cedar Ridge and Rose and D.H. Conley, wasn’t enforced between Cedar Ridge and Orange, or of most opponents of the Hillsborough schools. In the vast majority of games played, game officials seemed to interpret that the noise during serve was fine. Either way, no consistency was made to enforce a rule that was vague from the beginning.

Another issue of concern regarding fan participation involved coaching. Back on September 14th, Southern Alamance came to Hillsborough for a game at Cedar Ridge. With the Red Wolves maintaining a modest lead in the first set, the Patriots’ head coach began to complain about the Cedar Ridge students making noise during service.

Play was halted for several minutes as the floor umpire approached me and asked that an announcement be made that noise by spectators could not be made during service. At that point, I refused to make that announcement as I was not Cedar Ridge’s game manager nor was I in position to tell our fans to be quiet when they did not do or say anything that was unsportsmanlike. I called for AD Andy Simmons to come to the scoring table to be notified of the issue. When informed, Simmons along with Cedar Ridge coaches began to ask where in the official rules was fan noise prohibited during serve. As previously mentioned, the floor umpire used the blanket coverage of “sportsmanship” to enforce a rule that did not exist.

After a pause of bickering, Cedar Ridge relented to resume the game, and the Wolfpack acquiesced. But in the protest, Cedar Ridge faced a noticeable delay and eventually lost the advantage and momentum. While Cedar Ridge would eventually win the first set and eventually swept the match, the fact that the Patriots’ coach interjected himself into the match to help his team by a non-athletic reason was evident. After the game, I was notified by an eyewitness that the Southern Alamance coach utilized the same tactic in the match at Orange on August 22nd. At no time should a coach use this tactic to help their team, especially when they are losing. If a coach has to resolve to underhanded tactics to improve their team in a game, then that coach needs to resign in disgrace. A coach must maintain a high degree of integrity to not only lead their team to victory, but to also to make decisions within the framework of the rules. When a coach interprets the rules as to how it benefits them and not to ensure fairness among both teams, then the coach has lost any credibility.

Throughout the NCAA volleyball season, I have watched numerous games to where the fans making noise on serve is prevalent. The current rules and its’ enforcement within the NCHSAA are not going to benefit players with collegiate aspirations. With numerous players from Hillsborough fixing to ascend to the collegiate ranks, they all need to be exposed to the noise so they can learn how to play in hostile environments.

Imagine playing at defending national champion Wisconsin at the Kohl Center among 18,000 rabid Badgers, or at the KFC Yum Center against Final Four contender Louisville packed with 21,500 screaming Cardinals? What about encountering the 12,500 members of The Oakland Zoo at the Petersen Events Center at another Final Four participant in Pitt? No matter the environment, the student athletes playing in all sports need to acclimate themselves to raucous environments. As Jeff Hamlin has told me numerous times about this issue, “Volleyball is not Tennis. Get past the crowd and put the ball over the net.”

So what if you don’t play volleyball? What if you are a basketball player shooting free throws in a contested game with time winding down? Will the referees stop the crowds from making noise in order to throw you off? What if you are a pitcher in baseball or softball in a tied game in the late innings? Will the umpires silence spectators as you’re about to pitch? Unfortunately for student-athletes, what we saw in volleyball may not be relegated to volleyball in the future. It’s possible that hot student sections and fan bases could be extinguished in other sports – all in the name of “sportsmanship”.

This issue brings up a life lesson. If approached with an aggressive situation, how do you handle it? Do you succumb to the pressure, or do you rise above it through critical thinking and assertive action? If anything from the NFHS and NCHSAA, they want the pressure removed so you don’t face it. But as we all know, this never happens in life. At no time in life will pressure be removed so you can face more easier challenges. So why can’t our children, our students, and our players learn to overcome obstacles that face them head on?

As the landscape of high school athletics continues to change, one thing needs to be realized: Life goes on and doesn’t change under the guise of “Sportsmanship”. Challenges in life will either make you bitter or make you better. As we all are at the mountain, many will remain at base camp while some will make the climb. For a select number, they will ascend to the summit and declare victory. Don’t be afraid to start your journey towards victory despite a challenge before you. While you’re there, cheer on others in their climb towards victory.

My take on the issue? As long as the fans are respectful and not saying anything derogatory or defamatory –

Let the fans cheer. If they act in an unbecoming way, remove them from the gym. If the offenses are repetitive, the offender(s) must face suspension from attending games. But if they’re just cheering, making noise, and having a good time – let them be fans. Fans often go to games to release stress, hang out with friends, and to have a good time. If the rules continue to suppress fan involvement, then sooner or later there will be no fans at high school sporting events.

A Pennix Xmas: Xandrell scores 18 as Orange defeats Southern Alamance 80-63

Though Santa’s sleigh is still parked in the North Pole for the next 24 hours, there were some arrivals for the Orange men’s basketball team that showed up just in time to celebrate the Yuletide and a win over Southern Alamance.

There was the return of junior Ryan Moss, who missed the first eleven games of the season after he underwent surgery for a torn meniscus in September. That meant the Panthers got another weapon on offense and an expanded 12-man rotation, which coach Derryl Britt utilized to wear down the Patriots in an 80-63 victory on Wednesday night, Orange’s final game before Christmas.

On a night where 3-pointers flew through the air like snow flurries in winter, Panthers’ Sophomore Xandrell Pennix paced all scorers with 19 points. Freshman Coleman Cloer, despite sitting out most of the fourth quarter, finished with 14. Cloer has finished in double figures in eleven of Orange’s 12 games.

The Panthers (9-3) have already surpassed its win total from last year.

Southern Alamance (4-5), whose first six field goals were 3-pointers, were led by Jordan Moore with 18 points.

“They shot 3-pointers off the backboard, from the corner,” Britt said. “I thought they were auditioning for the Globetrotters. Ryan was shooting the ball well in practice. We ran a transition drill and Ryan was the guy in the corner knocking the 3-pointer down. I told him one day “Moss, if you don’t shot it that well when you come back, we’re going to have some problems.’ He said ‘I will, coach.’ Tonight, he did.”

The Patriots led the entire first quarter starting when Moore banked in a 3-pointer on the game’s opening possession. Southern Alamance’s Gage Martin, who finished with 14 points, added two more 3-pointers in the first quarter. A free throw by Nathan Teague built the Patriot lead to 14-8 with 2:39 remaining in the first quarter.

Orange finished the quarter on a 12-6 run that started with a three-point play by senior Darius Corbett, who tied his career-high with 13 points.

Late in the first quarter, Cloer put the Panthers in the lead after he grabbed an offensive rebound off a missed free throw and drew a foul against Southern’s Evan Jacobson. Cloer missed the subsequent free throw, but fellow freshman Mason Robinson got the offense rebound for a stickback basket and was fouled, as well, to give Orange its first lead.

Orange outscored the Patriots 24-8 in the second quarter to take control of the game. Pennix scored seven of his 18 points in the second quarter. Moss drained the first of his three 3-pointers to put Orange ahead 31-20. Moss set a new career-high with nine points.

The Panthers will gear up for the South Granville Holiday Invitational in Creedmoor. Orange will play in the Columbia Bracket and face East Wake on Wednesday night at 7 PM. The winner will face either Cary or South Granville in the semifinals.

Women’s game: Southern Alamance 47, Orange 44

Orange fought back from a 14-point deficit and had a chance to tie late against Southern Alamance, but the Patriots held off the Panthers to win 47-44. Madison Brouillard sank two big free throws late to secure the Patriots seventh win of the season.

Orange played without center Erin Jordan-Cornell and forward Katelyn Van Mater. Senior Jada Reed and Nikayla Whitted paced the Panther comeback. Reed finished with 13 points, while Whitted had 12.

Sophomore Evelyn George scored seven points, including five in the fourth quarter. The Panthers had a possession in the final 20 seconds to tie the game, but Southern Alamance’s Shaniya Paylor stripped the ball away and came up with a steal.

Despite not scoring in the opening five minutes, Southern Alamance led 8-4 at the end of the first quarter. MeiLani Patterson paced the Patriots with 13 points. Center Clara LaChapelle scored 12 for Southern.

Orange will open play in the Eastern Guilford Holiday Invitational on Monday morning. They will open the event against the Burlington School at 10 AM.