It’s taken five years, but Derryl Britt has made in imprint on the Orange men’s basketball program.
For starters, his younger players have developer an impression of him. Over the course of 27 games this past season which saw the Panthers journey from Franklinton to Morehead City, sophomore Freddy Sneed created a impersonation of Britt whenever the Panthers turn the ball over that ends with him yelling stomping down the sidelines and yelling “Come on, killer!”
This winter was the one that Britt had waited four years for his team to achieve. The best news, from an Orange perspective, is that the best may still be ahead.
While Britt waits for the academic year to end and summer workouts to start, he has received the highest honor from his peers.
Britt was named the Central Carolina Coach of the Year in a poll by the league’s coaches last month.
This year, Orange went from a 8-17 season in 2021-2022 to a 17-10 season, its first winning campaign since 2016-2017, when the Panthers reached the quarterfinals of the 3A State Playoffs.
That squad six years ago was led by seniors Connor Crabtree and Logan Vosburg. This year’s team was diametrically the opposite in terms of experience.
In the first game of the season against East Chapel Hill, Britt started three freshmen: Coleman Cloer, Kai Wade and Mason Robinson. Sophomore guard Xandrell Pennix and junior center Ryan Honeycutt rounded out the starting five. None of those players were on the varsity roster for the start of the 21-22 season.
Right away, Orange served notice that this season would be different with a win over East Chapel Hill. On November 29, Cloer knocked down two free throws with :7.2 remaining to push Orange past Franklinton 67-66. The Panthers were the only team in the first half of the season to beat the Rams, who went on to a 25-5 record.
Orange scored 103 points against the North Carolina School of Science and Math on December 1, the most points for a Panther team since Britt became head coach. Later that week, the Panthers defeated Riverside for the first time since 2013.
Orange defeated East Wake in the opening round of the South Granville Holiday Invitational on December 28. The Warriors would go on to win the Quad County Conference Championship. The tournament in South Granville was two shots away from being extra special for the Panthers. Orange led South Granville 64-58 with 1:33 remaining before the Vikings roared back with K.J. Green scoring on a lay-up at the buzzer to give the Vikings the win to advance to the championship game.
The next day against Sanderson was even more heartbreaking. The Panthers mounted a comeback before the Spartans hit another shot at the buzzer to beat the Panthers 55-54.
Orange swept the season series from Walter Williams, including its first win in Burlington since the 1980s. Orange reached the state playoffs, where they mounted another comeback that ended with senior Thomas Loch draining a 3-pointer, following by a steal by Wade to give Orange a one-point lead with 28 seconds remaining. The Patriots’ Worth Stack scored on a tip-in for the game-winning basket.
Britt is already making plans for another summertime tournament at Orange in June. While there weren’t many people around to see it, Britt learned last summer that the 2022-23 team would be different. Cloer, Wade and Malachi Poole, among others, played for an Orange team that won the Black Session championship.
As he prepares for his sixth season next November, Britt suddenly finds himself among the longest tenured coaches at Orange. After B.J. Condron’s resignation last month as Orange women’s basketball coach to become the new Athletic Director at Southeast Alamance High School, the only coaches who have been at Orange continuously since Britt’s arrival in 2018 are men’s soccer coach Palmer Bowman, baseball coach Jason Knapp, men’s tennis coach Justin Webb and wrestling coach Spenser Poteat, who replaced Bobby Shriner in 2017.
Editor’s Note: Britt is a color analyst for Orange football broadcasts on Hillsboroughsports.com.