Month: February 2024

Orange men’s swimming’s Luke Roman & Alex Andre discuss finishing in top two in 500 freestyle state championship race

Last Thursday, Luke Roman became just the second men’s swimmer in Orange history to win a state championship. If Roman had not won, then his teammate Alex Andre would have. Roman and Andre finished in the top two in the 500 yard freestyle at the 3A State Championships inside the Triangle Aquatic Center in Cary. Roman, who won the Central Conference and Central Regional championship in the 500 yards, captured first place with a time of 4:41.62. Andre earned the silver medal at 4:50.54. In the Central Regional championships at the Greensboro Aquatic Center on February 3, Andre won the 200 individual medley championship. Roman also claimed the Central Conference Championships in the 500 yard freestyle and the 200 yard freestyle. Andre captured two conference championships, as well, winning the 200 yard individual medley and the 100 yard backstroke. Roman and Andre’s leadership helped the Orange men’s swimming team win the Central Conference championship for the third straight season. The Panthers also finished 2nd in the Central Regional behind only Carrboro, it’s best-ever showing. The only other men’s swimmer from Orange High School to win a state championship was Ben Scott, who won the 100 yard freestyle in the 2018 3A State Championships. Roman and Andre are each juniors and will have plenty to look forward to in 2025.

Green Eggs and Hamlin: Just Keep Swimming

Over the seven years of this website, we’ve covered elite athletes at Cedar Ridge and Orange High Schools.

Each one that carved out a unique place in history had distinct physical characteristics. It became their trademark, a symbol that became theirs alone, accomplishing feats so special that finding a duplicate in the future would be fruitless.

Because there would never be another.

With Bryse Wilson, it was his right arm. He threw a perfect game with it against Eastern Wayne in the 2017 State Playoffs. He has taken it all the way to the National League Championship Series, where he beat Clayton Kershaw.

With Payton Wilson, it was his broad shoulders. It made the force of his tackles fierce, if not frightening, as well as a state champion wrestler and a solid lacrosse midfielder on face-offs.

With Mia Davidson, it was her wrists that could turn on a softball in an instant. She is the all-time home run hitter in Southeastern Conference history.

With Takiya Nichols, it was her hands. Her combination of power and speed led North Carolina Central softball to the NCAA Tournament for the first time last year.

With Trenton Gill, it was his right leg. You can now find him punting for the Chicago Bears on Sundays.

Throughout the past week, I’ve wondered what Katie Belle Sikes’ trademark will be?

Will it be her lungs? Was that how she could swim so fast, and for so long, in the water without popping up for air?

How else to explain her final lap as an Orange Panther, where she swam the anchor leg for Orange’s 200 freestyle relay team in the 3A State Championships at the Triangle Aquatic Center in Cary last Thursday? Trailing Carrboro by roughly two-tenths-of-a-second, Sikes took the relay from Ainsley Rasinske and went nearly 20 yards underwater before she popped up for air. By that point, Sikes had surged two strides ahead of Carrboro’s Avery Shuping. Seconds later, she touched the wall for the last time as an Orange Panther with a final state title.

In retrospect, that lap was foreshadowed from her adolescence. When she was three years old, Sikes was at her grandparents pool when, against her parents orders, she jumped off the diving board into the deep end. As her parents starting scrambling in horror, her head bobbed out of the water and she safely reached her brother on the other end without any aid.

Sikes put Orange women’s swimming on the map. She won five individual state championships and swam the anchor leg for the relay team of Rasinske, Riley White and Piper White that won the 200 yard freestyle state championship twice. Sikes, White, Zoe Jones and White claimed the 200 yard medley relay state title for the first time last week, as well.

She was named Most Outstanding Swimmer of the 3A State Championships twice and earned automatic All-American status in two events last week. Her 100 meter time of 48.76 seconds set a new 3A State record and was the 25th fastest time ever recorded by a high school athlete.

Now, her swimming career at Orange is over.

But part of her legacy is what she leaves behind for the future of Orange swimming.

Molly Kruse, the younger sister of Orange men’s lacrosse midfielder Connor Kruse, starting swimming this year for Orange because of Sikes’ influence.

“Katie Belle inspired me and so many others to join the swim team,” Kruse said. “It was such an amazing experience. Growing up, many days were spent going to watch her meets and cheering her on. So being able to swim with her was unforgettable. Katie Belle is one of my biggest role models, both athletically, academically and I am so grateful for all of the time we had together on the swim team.”

Sikes had individual success early in her career. As a sophomore, she became the first Orange female swimmer to win an individual state championship in the 50 yard freestyle.

This year, her success carried through to the entire team. The Orange women won the Central Conference championship, and finished as a runner-up in the Central Regionals (to Carrboro) and the State Championships (to Lake Norman Charter). It was their best-ever showing in the state championships.

“Our numbers were up on the team this year,” Geib said. “Part of that was because of Katie Belle. A lot of it had to do with kids bringing other kids in. She helped put swimming on the map for Orange. If you aren’t football, if you aren’t basketball, if you’re not baseball, sometimes people forget there’s other sports out there. Katie Belle makes it look easy, but it’s not.”

Katie Belle is moving on to the University of Georgia, which has won seven NCAA National Championships in women’s swimming. She vows that she will still keep up with Orange swimming while she’s in Athens while her former Orange teammates likely will badger her for football tickets on autumn weekends.

Katie Belle says that swimming is a less covered sport. But the swimmers aren’t lesser people, and anyone who saw her perform over the last four years understands that.

Because there’s only one Katie Belle Sikes.

And there will never be another.

 

 

Fitting finale; Ware scores 24, Utley adds 11 as Cedar Ridge women win on Senior Night; Williams downs Red Wolf men

It took a lot of waiting, plenty of patience and practices. Everything that the Cedar Ridge women’s basketball team has strived for the past four years paid off on its Senior Night.

After winning just seven games over the previous four years, the Cedar Ridge has secured a winning season.

And they will host a conference tournament game next week.

It all was secured on Tuesday night when the Red Wolves defeated Walter Williams 53-38 at Red Wolves Gymnasium to conclude the regular season. The Red Wolves will go into the Central Conference Tournament with a 12-11 mark and will finish in 3rd place in the Central Conference.

In her final regular season game at Red Wolves Gymnasium, senior Amiyah Ware finished with 24 points, five rebounds and seven steals. Junior Sarah Utley added eleven points and four rebounds as the Red Wolves gained a split in the season series against the Bulldogs.

“Amiyah is just a baller,” said Cedar Ridge women’s coach Megan Skouby. “She works hard out there. She draws all the attention. Every team we’ve played, they’ve put up a box-and-one against her. She’s still dropping 20 points a night, which is a pretty big feat if you ask me.”

The inclusion of Utley, a junior who transferred from Burlington Christian Academy over the summer, has led Ware to move to her natural off guard position.

Cedar Ridge actually never trailed against the Bulldogs after they jumped out to a 9-1 lead with Ware scoring all there field goals in the opening quarter. Williams didn’t get its first field goal until Jordan Taylor scored off a pass from Ryleigh Surles with 7:01 remaining in the second quarter, but Cedar Ridge still led 14-5.

“I think this year we’re played much more as a team,” Skouby said. “Everyone has concentrated so much this year on Amiyah, some other people have really stepped up. They’ve all contributed to that.”

Williams opened the second half with four straight 3-point baskets, including one from Surles that tied the game at 26-26. After Ware sank an outside jumper off a pass from Cierra Copeland to put the Red Wolves back in front, Williams’ Scout Winter drained an attempt from downtown to even it back up at 29-29.

Cedar Ridge ended the quarter on a 10-3 run to keep the lead for good. After Utley hit a free throw, Ware scored off a strip and steal. Freshman Kate Finnegan scored off a shot from point-blank range to end the quarter with Cedar Ridge leading 39-32.

Junior Jamee Watson opened the fourth quarter by hitting two three-pointers to open up a 45-36 lead for the.Red Wolves.

Seniors Addie Reid, Cierra Copeland, Cameron Copeland and Jordyan Delph were also honored on Senior Night. Reid, who is going to play volleyball at North Carolina Central, had her former volleyball coach, Fiona Cunningham in attendance.

It was a gratifying win for the Copeland sisters, who played on the varsity basketball team during the pandemic in 2021 when the Red Wolves often had just five players on the team.

“I’m really excited for them,” Skouby said. “They’ve worked hard and come a long way. They’re always there and always pushing their teammates.”

Men’s Basketball: Walter Williams 49, Cedar Ridge 36: 

Despite losing its top two post players early in the fourth quarter, Walter Williams held Cedar Ridge 17-9 in the fourth quarter to beat the Red Wolves on senior night.

The Red Wolves were without Luke Orstad and senior Hayden Kirk, regular rotation players who were both injured.

It was the final home game for Landon Dalehite, Harrison Perel, Tyler Fields, Brian Valentine and Kirk.

Perel led Cedar Ridge with 16 points and eleven rebounds, but the Red Wolves shot just 28% from the field. Williams out rebounded the Red Wolves 49-32. The Bulldogs had 21 offensive rebounds.

Brian Williams paced the Bulldogs with 17 points. Milton Turner had seven points and 12 rebounds for Williams before he fouled out with 6:11 remaining. At that point, Williams led 37-30, but Brian Williams scored six points down the stretch while the Red Wolves couldn’t get traction on offense.

Cedar Ridge will play at Eastern Alamance in the opening round of the Central Conference Tournament in Mebane on Monday night.

Basketball Notebook: George, Murphy lead Orange women past DSA

Women’s basketball: Orange 68, Durham School of the Arts 48: Playing a venerable Sykes Gymnasium on Monday night, the Orange women’s basketball team put four players in double-figures to win its final nonconference game of the regular season.

Junior Evelyn George finished with 19 points and eleven rebounds, her fourth double-double of the year. Sophomore Shannon Murphy came away with 13 points, eleven rebounds and five assists. Junior center Marshea Byrd had a season-high 13 points with four assists and three blocks.

Orange led by as many as 26 points in a wire-to-wire win. Four different players scored as the Lady Panthers (12-10) rushed to an 13-2 lead. Natalie Roberson opened the game with a three-pointer with a there-pointer off a feed from Byrd. Orange shot 6-of-11 from the field in the first quarter.

Durham School of the Arts (4-16) was led by freshman Faith Yon, who scored 24 points. Fellow freshman Kaylen Mumford added 14 points.

Youn and Mumford triggered a spurt late in the first quarter that cut the Panthers lead to 13-11 late in the first quarter. George scored her first field goal to open the second quarter off a drive to the basket, followed by a 15-footer from Murphy off a pass from Adkins. Orange wasn’t seriously threatened again as they piled up 24 points in the second quarter, their most in a frame this season.

The Panthers went on a 14-2 run midway through the second quarter, featuring back-to-back 3-pointers from Adkins and Maura McMurtry which put Orange ahead 37-18. Yon and Mumford combined for the final six points for the Bulldogs to reduced Orange’s lead to 37-24.

Orange limited the Bulldogs to 2-of-11 shooting from the field in the third quarter. George opened the second half with a lay-in after a blocked sot from Byrd. George followed with a three-pointer off a pass from McMurtry.

Orange will finish the regular season against Eastern Alamance on Friday night in Mebane. The Lady Panthers have split two games with the Eagles this season. During the Southeast Alamance Holiday Hoops Invitational, Orange defeated Eastern Alamance in the seventh place game 48-39 in Haw River. On January 23, the Eagles rolled past Orange 66-42 in Hillsborough.

 

Cedar Ridge seniors Ware, Copeland, Reid, Copeland and Delph discuss Senior Night win

Three yeas ago, it would have been hard to fathom the Cedar Ridge women’s basketball team finishing with a winning season, much less making the state playoffs. On Tuesday night, the Red Wolves sewed up a winning season with a 53-38 win over Walter Williams on Senior Night at Red Wolves Gymnasium. Seniors Amiyah Ware, Cameron Copeland, Addie Reid, Cierra Copeland and Jordyan Delph were honored between games of the doubleheader. Once again, it was Ware who provided the fireworks offensively for the Red Wolves. She scored 24 points to lead all scorers. Ware’s name will go down in the record books after she broke the county record with 54 points against Western Alamance last year, breaking the Orange County record that had stood for 45 years. For Reid, it was her final regular season game inside a gym she’s grown very accustomed to over the years. She won two conference championships and a regional title inside Red Wolves Gymnasium in volleyball. On Tuesday night, her former high school coach, Fiona Cunningham, was in attendance. Cunningham is now an assistant at North Carolina Central, where Reid will attend next season. Cameron and Cierra Copeland have stuck through the program from the very beginning of their freshman year, when the pandemic was still present. The Red Wolves had just five players for some games. The Copelands were two of those players who stuck it out through a winless season. Now, they will host a game in the Central Conference Tournament next Monday. Delph is in her first season on the varsity. Cedar Ridge will await to see who they will place for the Central Tournament, which will be Monday night at Red Wolves Gymnasium. 

Orange seniors Ryan Honeycutt, Malykhai Justice & Ryan Moss discuss win on Senior Night

Last Friday night, the Orange men’s basketball team needed some parts to fall together in order to secure its first regular season conference championship in seven years. They needed to defeat Southern Alamance, plus had to have Person beat Eastern Alamance in Roxboro. Fortunately for Orange, the basketball gods smiled. The Panthers crushed the Patriots 93-39, while the Rockets rallied to beat the Eagles. While Orange wouldn’t celebrate the conference title until later since the Person game ended long after the Panthers were done, they did commemorate senior night. Ryan Honeycutt, Ryan Moss and Malykhai Justice were honored in a pregame ceremony. Honeycutt led the team with 8.8 rebounds per game before he suffered a broken thumb against Cedar Ridge on February 2. He also paced the Panthers shooting 58% from the field. Moss has been a member of the Panthers since his freshman year when players had to suit up in a mask due to the pandemic. In the past four years, Moss has been a steady outside shooter when coach Derryl Britt has needed a presence from deep. Justice joined the varsity team for this season just months after being selected All-Central Conference in football. Last season, Justice was tied for the team lead in sacks. Early in the season, as forward Coleman Cloer was nursing an injured ankle, Justice started several games. Orange will finish out the regular season against Eastern Alamance on Friday night in Mebane. They will open play in the Central Conference Tournament next Tuesday night in Roxboro.

Orange women’s basketball’s Natalie Roberson, Shannon Murphy & Marshea Byrd discuss win over Person

The Orange women’s basketball team has lived on the road for the past month. It’s last home game came against Eastern Alamance on January 23. Since then, the Lady Panthers have played in Burlington, Roxboro, Graham, Elon, at Cedar Ridge and in Durham. On Monday night, Orange never trailed in a wire-to-wire win over the Durham School of the Arts at venerable Sykes Gymnasium. Sophomore Shannon Murphy finished with 13 points, eleven rebounds and five assists as Orange improved to 12-10. Center Marshea Byrd had 13 points, four rebounds and four assists as the Lady Panthers built a 26-point lead at one point in the second half. Sophomore Natalie Roberson made her first start and came away with five points. Junior Evelyn George paced the Lady Panthers with 19 points and eleven rebounds. Last week, the Lady Panthers defeated Person in Roxboro 65-34. George led the Lady Panthers with 21 points, while sophomore Addie Atkins came away with 12 points. Orange will finish its regular season on the road, naturally, on Friday night in Mebane. They will face Eastern Alamance. Last year, Orange defeated the Eagles in Mebane in the opening round of the Central Conference Tournament. The Lady Panthers will open play in the Central Conference Tournament on Monday night with the team and location to be determined. 

Orange’s Hutchins wins 132-lb. Mideast Regional title; Orange’s Hill, Crawford, Cedar Ridge’s Tatro go to state tournament

The 3A Mideast Wrestling Regional was an industrial shredder this year.

Of the 16 regionals across the state, the 3A Mideast was the only one that had both a dual team state champion (Union Pines) and the state runner-up (Eastern Guilford) in the same tournament. Throw in traditional powerhouses like Orange, Greensboro Dudley and Cape Fear and you have the makings of a field so deep, seeding nightmares became inevitable.

Orange senior Jared Hutchins earned the top-seed in the 132-pound tournament and survived, to the truest sense of the term, to win his first regional title at Union Pines High School in Cameron on Saturday.

In three dominant performances, Hutchins mowed through a deep field and scored a major decision over Logan Mitchell of Union Pines 14-6 in the championship match. Hutchins will be the #1 seed from the Mideast for the 3A State Championships, which will start Thursday afternoon at the Greensboro Coliseum.

This season, Hutchins won individual championships at the Eagle Invitational in Mebane and the Joe Via Memorial at South Stokes High in Walnut Cove.

It will be Hutchins third trip to the state championships. Hutchins, who is now 31-4 with 24 pins this season, finished 5th in the 2023 3A State Tournament. He reached the semifinals in the championship round after pinning Luke Connick, the 3A Eastern Regional champion, in the second round.

As a sophomore, Hutchins finished 28-10 and won two matches in the state tournament.

Hutchins, who eclipsed 100 career wins earlier this month, pinned Cristian Ramos of Douglas Byrd in 1:54 in the quarterfinals. On Saturday, Hutchins pinned Jameer Farmer of Person in 3:13 to advance to the final.

This season, Hutchins was a senior on an Orange team that had ten new starters. As a veteran, he remembered what it was like to receive daily lessons in the school of hard knocks from early days as a Panther.

“It made me better,” Hutchins said during the Tiger Holiday Classic in December. “It’s helped me get to where I am now. I want to place in the top three in the state tournament.”

Hutchins is one of three Orange grapplers to qualify for the state championships. At 126 pounds, junior Braden Crawford qualified for the second year in a row. At 175 pounds, senior Andre Hill also reached the state tournament for the second time.

Cedar Ridge, which had four wrestlers reach the state tournament in 2023, had a difficult day. Senior Kaden Tatro finished third in the in the 165-pound tournament, beating Hunter Macklin of Dudley 10-1 in the consolation final. It will be Tatro’s third trip to the state tournament.

Overall, Tatro won four matches in the regional tournament to put his career wins total at 159. He is now in sole possession of 2nd place in school history, having surpassed Josh Collins total of 151, set from 2001-2005. Chandler Collins holds the record of 166 wins.

Tatro reached the 182-pound regional final last year.

On Saturday, Tatro, seeded #2, faced Troy Shannon of Terry Sanford in the semifinals. Tatro led 4-2 going into the third period, but was penalized twice for stalling in the final two minutes. The second warning came with nine seconds remaining, which tied the match 4-4. Shannon got a takedown with five seconds remaining for the decisive points.

Hill, the #2 seed at 175 pounds, pinned Trenton Westbrook of Cape Fear in 2:34 in the opening round. Cameron Perryman of Dudley upset Hill in the quarterfinals. Hill had to win four matches on Saturday in order to take third place.

He scored two pins and two technical falls to punch his ticket to Greensboro. He pinned NaZiah Rice of Westover in 2;50 in the consolation final. Hill is 44-3 on the season with 29 pins.

Crawford reached the semifinals at 126 pounds after pinfall wins over Emanuel Garcia of Person and Hunter Hill of Harnett Central. Shawn Bass of Dudley never trailed in beating Crawford 4-1 in the semifinals. Crawford bounced back to defeat Jazten Hall of Fayetteville 71st 5-0 to officially reach the state tournament. In the 3rd place match, Joseph Lloyd of Union Pines defeated Crawford via pinfall in 2:42.

The depth of the field worked to the detriment of numerous competitors from Cedar Ridge and Orange.

Cedar Ridge junior Pierce Prescod came into the 120-pound tournament with a 44-9 record. If Prescod was in, say, the 3A West Regional, that record would have likely earned him a #3 seed (which is what Aydan Mull of Tusculum received with a 43-12 mark).

In the Mideast, Prescod got a #5 seed, where he faced Eastern Guilford’s Tremayne McNeely in the second round. McNeely won 5-1.

In 2023, Prescod controversially fell one match short of the state championships when his opponent, Carson Cori of South Johnston, claimed he couldn’t continue due to an injured back after it was returned that Prescod illegally slammed him. Prescod, with a 44-11 record, didn’t make it to Greensboro.

This year, Prescod also fell one match short of the state tournament. Facing Keaton Crawford of Union Pines, Prescod led 8-3 going into the final period. Crawford scored a takedown with 35 seconds remaining to even the match, then got a takedown 44 seconds into sudden victory to move on to Greensboro.

It was the final tournament for Cedar Ridge senior James Este-Wittinger, who reached the state tournament in 2023. Este-Wittinger reached the quarterfinals before being eliminated by Chevelle Cade of Westover 3-2 in the consolation quarterfinals.

Alumni Update: Dalehite starts senior year at UNCG with multi-hit games

Tori Dalehite: The former Cedar Ridge second baseman started her senior year with the UNC Greensboro softball team with three starts during the Carolina Classic on the campus of the University of South Carolina at Beckham Field in Columbia, S.C. Dalehite started in left field in the season-opener against Virginia on Friday  morning, a 6-5 Cavaliers victory where UVA jumped out to a 6-0 lead. After sitting out an 8-4 loss to #23 South Carolina on Friday afternoon, Dalehite went 2-for-3 against Virginia on Saturday morning. Dalehite scored the opening Spartan run off a bases-loaded walk by Maycin Brown. Virginia won that game 7-2. Later on Saturday afternoon, the Spartans earned its only win of the weekend with a 5-4 victory over Jacksonville State. Dalehite went 2-for-3, again starting in left field. In the finale on Sunday morning, Jacksonville St. scored four runs in the second inning to beat the Spartans 6-3. Dalehite finished 0-for-2,  but scored a run after drawing a walk. UNCG will play a doubleheader against Winthrop in Greensboro on Wednesday.

Takia Nichols: The all-time home run hitter in Cedar Ridge history started her second season at North Carolina Central in the NFCA Leadoff Classic at the Eddie Moore Complex in Clearwater, FL. Nichols got a pinch-hit single in a 7-0 loss to #13 Utah on Saturday night. Nichols went 1-for-2 with a walk, batting cleanup as the designated hitter, in a 4-1 loss to Iowa on Saturday afternoon. She also started against South Alabama and Indiana. The Eagles defeated Central Arkansas 5-4 on Friday afternoon in eight innings.

Mary Moss Wirt: The Elon softball team went 3-1 during the Elon Softball Classic at Hunt Softball Park over the weekend. On Saturday afternoon, Wirt started at catcher as the Phoenix had a 5-4 walkoff win over Evansville. Wirt scored a run off a walk in a 15-8 loss to Miami (Ohio) on Saturday. Wirt drew a walk. She also started as catcher in an 8-7 win over Kent State. Sunday’s game against Appalachian State was canceled due to rain.

Carson Bradsher: In her first college at-bat, Bradsher got a base hit for South Carolina Upstate in its 8-0 win over Towson at Cyrill Stadium in Spartanburg, SC on Saturday afternoon. Bradsher, a former Orange shortstop, scored off a Taliyah Thomas in the fourth inning. It came during the Spartan Classic, where South Carolina Upstate went 2-2. On Sunday, the Spartans defeated South Carolina State 7-1. Against the Bulldogs, Bradsher came on as a pinch-runner and scored off a single by Denver Lauer.

Lauren Jackson: After sitting out last weekend’s doubleheader against Lander, Jackson started her sophomore season for the Division II Lenoir-Rhyne Bears last week. Jackson started in a 7-3 win over Columbus State at Cougar Field in Columbus, GA on Friday. Jackson went 1-for-4. On Saturday, Jackson went 0-for-3 in a 6-5 over Tuskegee. The Bears are 6-2.

Jackson Berini: Last week, Berini started all four games for Gaston College, a stretch where the Rhinos went 3-1. Each time, Berini started at second base (he played shortstop at Orange). In an 8-2 win over Fayetteville Technical Community College, all ten runs were scored after the sixth inning. Berini went 0-for-3 with a run scored. On Saturday, Berini drove in two runs in a 9-1 win over Cleveland Community College in eight innings at Sims Legion Park. He had an RBI single in the eighth and finished 1-for-4. The Rhinos swept the doubleheader with an 8-4 win in seven innings. Berini went 1-for-2 with a stolen base. On Sunday, Cleveland defeated Gaston 6-5 in nine innings after trailing 5-1 going into the sixth inning. Berini went 0-for-4. Gaston College is 9-2.

Abby Dease: The Division III Smith College women’s swimming team defeated Holyoke 161-138 in a dual meet in South Hadley, MA on Saturday. Dease finished 3rd in the 1000 yard freestyle, finishing at 11:49.06. smith is 4-6 this season.