Month: June 2023

Orange men’s basketball to host Summer Heat Tournament starting Tuesday

For some, it may have been a surprise to see the Orange men’s basketball team win ten games before Christmas last season. Especially since they won just ten games for the entire 2018-2019 and 2017-2018 seasons.

But for anyone who saw the Orange Summer Heat Tournament last June, it wasn’t surprising in the least. Cole Cloer and Kai Wade had just graduated from middle school less than a week beforehand, but suited up for Orange in the Black Session of the Tournament. The Panthers advanced to the championship game against Chapel Hill, where they rallied from a late six-point deficit with just over 1:00 to play to win the championship.

It was the foundation of where the expectations of the 2022-2023 season were built. From that point forward, Orange coach Derryl Britt craved opening night against East Chapel Hill, where three freshmen (Cloer, Wade and Mason Robinson) started.

On Tuesday, the second Orange Summer Heat Tournament will take place inside Panther Gymnasium. This year, the event will take place on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. On Tuesday, games will start at 3PM and last until 9:00.

On Wednesday and Thursday, the action starts at 2:00 PM and continues until 9:00 PM.

Admission is $10. Children ten years old and younger will get in free. The event is a fundraiser for the Orange Basketball program.

The other teams in the event will include Southern Lee, Chapel Hill, East Chapel Hill, Providence Grove and Lee County.

The event will be noteworthy for several reasons. In addition to Orange’s participation, the event will mark the unofficial debut of new East Chapel Hill coach Kennard Winchester, only the second head coach in the 27-year history of the school. Ray Hartsfield stepped down in March. Hartsfield took the Wildcats to the 1997 3A State Championship.

Cloer and Wade will both suit up for Orange in the event. The two have played travel basketball throughout the spring. Cloer has gone viral with an array of dunks, blocks and other highlights. Two weeks ago, he earned his first Division I college offer from High Point University.

Since the season ended in February, Wade has played throughout the country on weekends and during holidays, including in Atlanta and Dallas. Last season, Wade averaged 2.8 assists per game. He was second on the team with 11.5 points per game.

Cloer was the leading scorer for the Panthers with 20.1 points per game. He also led the team with 3.1 assists per game.

Next season, Orange will compete in a Central Carolina Conference that will be dramatically different solely from the departure of Northwood, who won 34 consecutive CCC games and reached the 3A State Championship in February. The Chargers are moving down to 2A and will be replaced in the CCC by Southern Alamance, who is moving down from 4A.

Southern Alamance competed in the DAC-VII Conference the past two years.

Northwood won three of the last four conference championships and claimed the 3A Eastern Regional Championship in 2021 and 2023.

The tournament will be a breeding ground for younger players who will attempt to provide depth next season. The Panthers are losing five seniors. Darius Corbett, Kaleb Barnhardt, Thomas Loch, Isaiah Seymour and Caleb Barreto all graduated on Friday night at the Smith Center in Chapel Hill.

Last year was the first time since 2017 that Orange reached the 3A State Playoffs, where they took West Carteret to the wire in Morehead City in the opening round.

Orange finished the season 17-10, but it could have easily been a 20-win season. The Panthers had last-second losses to South Granville and Sanderson in the South Granville Holiday Tournament on consecutive days. Against West Carteret, senior Worth Stack tapped in a missed shot with 22 seconds remaining to give the Patriots a 65-64 lead. They went on to win 66-64 when Malachi Poole’s desperation heave from midcoast rimmed out.



Orange High Athletic Director Mike McCauley passes away after brief battle with cancer

The soccer games that stretched well into the night at Orange High will never be the same.

That’s where Mike McCauley spent plenty of time over the past seven years. As fans walked into Orange Soccer Stadium, McCauley would be the first person they’d see. He’d take tickets, charging $6 for admission for men’s and women’s soccer games, then would run the scoreboard as his workday stretched into a 12th, 13th and (if there was overtime) 14th hour.

It was just one of McCauley’s many duties after he replaced Earnie Price as Orange High Athletic Director in 2016. Usually, at this time of year, his teaching days would wind down. His focus would be on mowing fields and the next academic year, which always felt it was around the corner, even in early June.

On Monday night, McCauley passed away at Alamance Regional Medical Center in Burlington.

Last Wednesday, McCauley was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He had been absent from work last week, leaving his myriad of duties to several coaches and trainers. Two weeks ago, he was present when Orange senior Brianne “Breezy” Foster signed her letter of intent to play softball at Wake Tech, along with principal Jason Johnson.

McCauley arrived at Orange after he departed Graham High School, where he served as head football coach from 2004-2011. He served on the staff of football coach Pat Moser and defensive coordinator Van Smith (both previously at Graham High). The coaching combined with the talent of players like Payton Wilson, Bryse Wilson, Stone Edwards, Tay Jones, Keyshawn Thompson, Patrick Pettiford and Garrett Cloer produced the longest sustained success in Orange football history. Starting in 2012, Orange had six consecutive 10-win seasons and won three consecutive Big 8 Conference championships.

In 2016, McCauley transitioned away from the sidelines and into the role of athletic director after Price retired. Very quickly, he found himself having to replace local and statewide legends.

In March 2017, longtime wrestling coach Bobby Shriner retired after winning over 500 dual matches and five state championships. Shriner, whose son Nick is currently the head wrestling coach at Orange Middle School, nearly won a state championship in his final dual match against Piedmont High in Monroe. Spenser Poteat, who wrestled for Shriner, was chosen by McCauley as his replacement. Since then, Orange has maintained its standard of excellence, winning five conference championships and reaching the Eastern Regional Final of the Dual Team State Tournament each of the last two years.

Two months later, the Orange softball program that McCauley oversaw won the state championship, sweeping Piedmont in a best-of-three series at Dail Softball Stadium at N.C. State University. Mia Davidson, who would go on to become the all-time home run leader at Mississippi State University and the Southeastern Conference, was named tournament Most Valuable Player.

The following year, men’s basketball coach Greg Motley resigned after 20 years, but maintained his position as a teacher at Orange until eventually leaving for Southern Durham. Motley was the winningest head coach in school history, leading the Panthers to the state quarterfinals in 2017 behind forward Connor Crabtree and center Logan Vosburg. McCauley selected Derryl Britt from Warren County as a replacement. Last year, Britt was named Central Carolina Conference Coach of the Year after leading the Panthers back to the state playoffs for the first time in six years.

Also in 2018, Chandler Zirkle, a former player at East Chapel Hill, was hired by McCauley as the new lacrosse coach replacing David O’Neal. Zirkle, who added his father Franklin to the staff in 2021, has transformed the program into arguably the best in Orange County, including the Chapel Hill schools. The Panthers have won three consecutive conference championships and hosted the 3A/2A/1A Eastern Regional Championship games in 2022 and 2023.

McCauley also hired Justin Webb as tennis coach to replace Andy Brown. Last fall, the Orange women’s team won the first conference championship in school history. They reached the 3A State Dual Team Playoffs in 2022 and 2023.

“Coach McCauley was a tremendous supporter of our tennis program,” Webb wrote on Twitter Tuesday morning. “He helped us secure funding for numerous projects, no questions asked. He helped install signs to support our most recent successes. His service to the school and the athletic community was incredible.”

In May 2018, Dean Dease retired as Orange baseball coach. Jason Knapp, who served as a head coach at Walter Williams High in Burlington, was named Dease’s replacement.

“When he brought me in, he told me about how they expect uphold a program of integrity here,” Knapp said on Tuesday morning. “He told me about the expectations at Orange High, but he wanted to maintain a standard of excellence. Mike was a gentle giant. He was tall and muscular. But he didn’t need to raise his voice to get his point across. That’s why he was so well liked.”

Dease left Orange after winning 503 career games and the 2008 2A State Championship. Knapp has won three consecutive conference championships and just finished a 25-3 season, the most successful campaign since 2013.

Knapp’s first interaction with McCauley actually came years before both arrived at Orange. They talked on the football field whenever Williams and Graham squared off. Knapp was a position coach with the Bulldogs while McCauley was the head coach of the Red Devils.

They lived two miles from each other in Burlington.

“It’s a hard time right time now,” Knapp said as he sat watching the baseball field on Tuesday. “Everyone is devastated. You try to focus on work and exams, but then you walk past his office.”

Funeral arrangements for McCauley are incomplete at this time.