Even with the youngest Orange wrestling team in years, the Panthers captured the overall title at the Eagle Invitational in Mebane.
Andre Hill, Jared Hutchins, Braden Crawford and Logan Scarantino all won individual championships at the event held at the Mebane Arts & Community Center on December 15 and 16. Hill captured the 175-pound championship, his second individual tournament championship this season, and was named the Most Outstanding Wrestler of the upper-weight classes.
Hutchins, who scored pins in all four of his matches, claimed his first individual championship of the season. He was named the Most Outstanding Wrestler of the lower-weight classes.
Overall, Orange placed eight wrestlers to capture its first team title of the 2023-2024 campaign, finishing with 206 points. Southern Alamance, the Panthers’ Central Conference rival, finished second with 147.5 points. Randleman finished third at 142 points.
In the 175-pound tournament final, Hill defeated Zeke May of Western Alamance 14-10 in a match that had three lead changes. May scored the opening four points after a takedown 37 seconds into the match and scored two near fall points. Shortly afterwards, Hill scored an escape, gained May’s back and earned two back points of his own to take a 5-4 lead. May escaped to even the match 5-5 at the end of the first period.
May started the second period from the bottom and took a 7-5 lead after he mounted an escape. After May was penalized a point for stalling, Hill gained an 8-7 lead following a reversal. In the third period, Hill gained two more points after May was called for stalling. Hill earned a reversal point to go ahead 14-7 and rode out the win from there. Hill improved to 19-1.
In the opening round, Hill pinned Evan Gerringer of Southern Alamance in 1:52. In the quarterfianls, Hill built a 15-2 lead before he pinned Clinton Williamson of East Chapel Hill in 3:45. Hill scored his 15th pin of the season when he defeated Parker Peters of Northern Guilford in 4:11 in the semifinals.
Hutchins pinned Cameron Stokes of Bartlett Yancey in just 24 seconds in the 138-pound final to conclude a dominant run to the title. None of Hutchins’ four matches went beyond one minute long. In the semifinals, Hutchins pinned Chasen Phillips of Eastern Alamance in 45 seconds. Hutchins finished off Shane Shuster of East Chapel Hill in 23 seconds. He opened the tournament by pinning Jonathan Mosqueda of Western Alamance in 44 seconds. Hutchins improved to 18-3 with 15 pins on the season.
Two weeks after he won the Jim King/Orange Invitational, Crawford won the 126-pound championship when he pinned Trenton Coleman of Tunstall in 2:59. It was Crawford’s eleventh pinfall victory of the season. Crawford ended the tournament with a 18-1 record.
In the semifinals, Crawford defeated Jalen Allen of Northern Guilford 6-0. Crawford scored the opening takedown in the opening minute and never looked back. In the quarterfinals, Crawford pinned Riley Neil of Southern Alamance in 44 seconds. Crawford opened the tournament with a pin of Tha Moo of T.W. Andrews in 53 seconds.
Scarantino entered the 113-pound championship as the #2 seed. He defeated the #1 seed, Elijah Watson of Eastern Alamance, 11-1 in the final. After a scoreless first period, Scarantino earned the opening points of the match after he escaped with 35 seconds remaining in the second period. Scarantino’s finally got the opening takedown and earned three points for a near fall.
In the semifinals, Scarantino fought back from an early deficit to defeat Blake Abbott of Northwest Guilford 6-3. Abbott took Scarantino just 12 seconds into the match, but Scarantino escaped and earned a double-leg takedown to take a 3-2 lead at the end of the first period. Scarantino pinned Nattapat Bhorchim of Western Guilford in 31 seconds in the quarterfinals.
Several other Panthers placed for the first time this season. At 144 pounds, Talan Pearly came in third. In the consolation final, Pearly pinned Justin Shumaker of Bartlett Yancey in 3:45.
At 190 pounds, Jayden Medley was runner-up, the best finish of his career. In the semifinals, Medley pinned the #1 seed, Kaw Poe of T.W. Andrews, in 4:32. Chazz May of Western Alamance won the championship.
At 106 pounds, Chris Winstead finished 4th. Winstead pinned Moses Medina of Northwest Guilford in the quarterfinals. In the consolation round, Winstead pinned Zackary Pisani of Southeast Alamance.
Adrian Sierra finished fourth at 113 pounds. Sierra came away from the tournament with his eighth win of the season.
Getting the Pieces Together–Following injury-plagued autumn, Orange men’s basketball starts John Wall Invitational today
By the time Christmas rolls around, most high school basketball teams know their identity, their rotation and who they are.
Not so for the Orange men’s squad this year.
From the time that Coleman Cloer suffered an injured ankle in the final week of practice, the Panthers have been in a waiting mode.
With Cloer the highest ranked North Carolina prospect in the Class of 2026, Panthers coach Darryl Britt scheduled a series of showcase games to highlight his superstar. After Cloer’s injury kept him out four weeks, the Panthers lost to Riverside and Highland Academy.
Then starting sophomore point guard Kai Wade was injured late in a loss to Jordan. That robbed the Panthers of its two most experienced ball-handlers in losses to East Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill and Forsyth Country Day.
Cloer and Wade returned in time for the Central Conference opener against Southern Alamance on December 14, but in many respects, the Panthers are still waiting–both for Cloer to get his basketball legs back and for the team to get used to his presence again after playing nine games without him. While he scored 29 points in his season-debut against the Patriots in Graham, the Panthers never led in regulation and had a near-miraculous rally from five points down in the final :28 to force overtime. Orange emerged victorious 72-68 to end a seven-game losing streak.
“It’s been a tough road to travel without Coleman and Kai,” Britt said after a loss to Chapel Hill on December 8. “We understand who we are and how we got here. I built a tough, non conference schedule thinking we were going to be healthy to prepare us for conference play and postseason play. That hasn’t changed. The difference is we haven’t played well enough to beat some of these teams.”
Now, Orange starts play in possibly the biggest December tournament in North Carolina, the John Wall Holiday Invitational. The three-day event is contested at two different locations in Raleigh.
Orange will open in the Devonte Graham Bracket at Broughton High School against a familiar face–the Northwood Chargers this afternoon at 3:30. Northwood won consecutive Central Conference championships and 3A Eastern Regional titles in 2021 and 2023. They were a conference rival with Orange from 2013-2023, then realigned as a 2A team during the summer.
The Chargers return Drake Powell, who committed to North Carolina early in Hubert Davis tenure as the Tar Heels coach. In four years with the Chargers, Powell has averaged 16.5 points and 6.5 rebounds per game to spearhead a Chargers attack that has lots of size and outside shooting.
Powell’s emergence has helped the Chargers gain a prominent stature across the state and nationally. Last week, they finished second in the Capital City Classic, an eight-team event in Salem, Oregon.
Northwood has beaten Orange eleven straight times, including wins by 25 and 31 points last year.
The winer of Orange/Northwood will face either Richmond County or Jordan on Friday. The final day of games will take place on Saturday.
Once the John Wall ends, Orange will focus on its main goal of winning the Central Conference, a league that takes on a new shape without Northwood’s presence. Last year, when Cloer and Wade were freshman and guards Xandrell Pennix and Freddy Sneed were sophomores, Orange finished third following several tight games with Person, who beat the Panthers three times.
Britt is a former solider who served overseas. He spent the first half of this season waiting for the Calvary to show up, Now, they’ve finally arrived and the pieces have to come together in order for this season to become everything this squad hoped it would be when workouts started after Halloween.
“We’ve treaded through some tough water,” Britt said. “It’s going to make us a better team. Coming into the season without Coleman and Kai, we wouldn’t have built the schedule that we did, truth be told. We wouldn’t have been invited to some of these showcase games without a player of Coleman’s caliber. We understand what it is. Being the adult in the room, we knew the Calvary is coming.”
It was another strong finish for Orange senior wrestler Andre Hill at the Tiger Holiday Classic. At 175 pounds, Hill finished third in the midst of a deep field that included Kaden Tatro of Cedar Ridge and Brock Sullivan of Union Pines. Hill defeated Dominic Hittepole of Wheatmore to finish in third place on Saturday. Hill earned a 10-3 decision for his 22nd win of the season. Hill opened the tournament by pinning Matthew Lineberry of Gray’s Creek in 3:18. In the quarterfinals, Hill defeated Erik Pendlebury of St. Christopher’s (Virginia) in 1:34. Hill lost to Sullivan, the eventual champion, in the semifinals. Already tis year, Hill has won individual championships at the Jim King/Orange Invitational in Hillsborough and the Eagle Invitational in Mebane. Among his 22 victories, he has 18 pins. Hill has been an offensive lineman for the Orange football team the past three seasons, which helped helm cultivate his skills on the wrestling mat. This was the first time that Hill has placed in the Tiger Holiday Classic, one of the most prestigious wrestling meets in the southeast. This Saturday, Hill will look to conclude the 2023 calendar year in style. Orange will venture to Oakboro to participate in the West Stanly Duals.
The Cedar Ridge men’s basketball team defeated Jordan-Matthews for its first win of the season on December 13. Senior Landon Dalehite scored a team-high eleven points as the Red Wolves won 46-38 to avenge an earlier loss to the Jets. Cedar Ridge center Harrison Perel finished with a double-double of ten points and eleven rebounds. The Red Wolves outrebounded the Jets 40-20, including 14 offensive boards. Dalehite drained all three of his 3-pointers, including a trey from the corner with 5:40 remaining in the third quarter assisted by freshman Jordan Jacobson to put the Red Wolves ahead 21-19. Braeden Wilbourn finished with eight points and nine rebounds to help the Red Wolves in the second half. Cedar Ridge limited the Jets to seven points in the third quarter. The Red Wolf defense held Jordan-Matthews to seven points in the third quarter. For the first time in seven years, Cedar Ridge will play in a holiday tournament this week. The Red Wolves will venture to Southeast Alamance High School in Haw River for the eight-team Southeast Alamance Holiday Hoopla Tournament. Cedar Ridge will open with its first-ever matchup against Southeast Alamance on Thursday night at 8:30. You can hear that game on Hillsboroughsports.com. The winner of the game between the Red Wolves and the Stallions will face the winner of Chatham Charter and Eastern Alamance. Cedar Ridge is one of four teams from the Central Conference in the event.
This week’s Cedar Ridge Red Wolf of the Week is senior quarterback Mason Cates. Mason is known for several sports at Cedar Ridge, namely for baseball. This season, he was the quarterback and linebacker for the Red Wolves under first-year head coach Brent Bailey. He was one of many players who helped keep the Friday night lights on at Cedar Ridge after the Red Wolves didn’t field a football team in 2018 and 2021, helping the students receive the full high school experience with Homecoming, Senior Nights and rivalry games. Last month, Mason signed to play baseball with Catawba Valley Community College in Hickory. Cates was an All-Central Conference selection for the Red Wolves last season. He was a pitcher. 1st baseman and outfielder for a Cedar Ridge team that reached the state playoffs for the second straight year. Among the highlights of Cates season came against Walter Williams on March 7, when he had a two-run single in the second inning to help the Red Wolves beat the Bulldogs 6-2. In February, Cates will start his fourth season on the varsity baseball team under head coach Bryson Massey. He will be one of several experienced pitchers back for Cedar Ridge, who will look to challenge for the Central Conference championship.