Orange High School

Orange Panther of the Week: Kai Wade

This week’s Orange Panther of the Week is sophomore men’s basketball point guard Kai Wade. This season, the Orange men’s basketball team won the Central Conference championship, its first conference title since 2017. Wade’s explosive first step off the ball has become his trademark since he started as a freshman last season. His synchronicity with teammates Coleman Cloer, Xandrell Pennix and Freddie Sneed is evident with the way Wade runs the Orange offense. Another Wade wrinkle is his pull-up jumper, which he used to tie up the season-opener against Hillside in November, leading to an Orange win. On January 23, Wade had a season-high 20 points in the Panthers 75-67 win over Eastern Alamance, which put the Panthers in first place in the Central Conference for good. In Orange’s conference opener against Southern Alamance on December 14, Wade scored 15 points, but the Panthers wouldn’t have won without him. He stole the ball for a lay-in late in regulation as Orange erased a 5-point deficit in the final 28 seconds of regulation. Wade opened overtime with a 25-foot 3-pointer to put the Panthers ahead for good. Wade had seven assists in the rematch against Southern Alamance on February 9. Through 48 career games, Wade is at 572 points. He also won an OPAC Middle School championship at Gravelly Hill Middle School in Efland. He scored 20 points in 2020 as the Grizzlies defeated Phillips 45-37 in 2020.

Orange lacrosse’s Katie Wolter & Alden Cathey discuss season-opening win over Apex

It’s the final season for several important players who have suited up for the Orange lacrosse team the past four years. On Monday night, they got off to a strong start, beating formidable 4A opponent Apex 13-8 at Auman Stadium. Senior Connor Kruse finished with three goals and six assists. Kruse is the all-time leading scorer in school history. He has 173 career goals and 339 points. Defenseman Alden Cathy had two ground balls and made several stellar defensive plays to keep the Panthers ahead for the entire game. Senior goalkeeper Katie Wolter played in the first and third quarters. Wolter, made two saves. In December, Wolter formally signed to play for the Elon women’s lacrosse team after being a starter for two Orange teams that have won the conference championship each of the last three years. Sophomore Brandon Williams started the year with four goals. Last season, Williams finished with 27 goals as a rookie. Freshman Jackson Runkle played the second and fourth quarters in his first career varsity game. Sophomore Matthew Macner won 15 face-offs. Orange was supposed to face Walter Williams on Tuesday night but the game was rained out in Burlington. The Panthers will face Cedar Ridge at Auman Stadium in Central Conference opener at Auman Stadium this Monday night. 

Orange forward Coleman Cloer discusses surpassing 1,000 career points

Orange sophomore men’s basketball forward Coleman Cloer added to his legacy in several ways on Tuesday night. He scored 38 points as the Panthers defeated Currituck County 85-62 to win in the opening round of the 3A State Playoffs. Cloer also surpassed 1,000 career points. He become the first Orange player to reach 1,000 points as a sophomore. Cloer drained a 25-footer for career point 1,002. He surpassed the milestone in his 45th career game. This season, Cloer set a new career-high of 41 points against Southern Alamance on February 10, the night where Orange claimed the Central Conference regular season championship. Last week, he scored 36 points against Eastern Alamance as the Panthers won the Central Conference Tournament, the Panthers first conference tournament title since 2016. Cloer also had 31 in the regular season finale against Eastern Alamance in Mebane in the regular season finale. Orange shot 55% from the field against Currituck. He also grabbed eleven rebounds. Junior Xandrell Pennix added 21 points and four steals as the Panthers improved to 16-11. Kai Wade had eleven points. Orange advances to the second round of the 3A State Playoffs for the first time since 2017. They will face Northern Nash in Rocky Mount on Friday night. Northern Nash defeated West Brunswick in the opening round. 

Orange baseball’s Josiah Gibbs & Cameron Guentensberger discuss win over Northern Durham

For the fifth time in six seasons, the Orange baseball team won its season-opener under head coach Jason Knapp. On Monday night, the Panthers defeated Northern Durham 7-3 at Panther Field. Senior Josiah Gibbs earned his 11th career win, allowing only four hits in four innings as the opening day starter. Gibbs, who led the team with seven wins in 2023, struck out four. Cameron Guentensberger, a senior centerfielder, drove in the Panthers opening run with a soft liner to right field, scoring Kayden Bradsher. Orange busted the game open with five runs in the fourth inning. Henry Hoffman reached on an error and scored off a single by Bradsher. Guentensberger added another RBI single with a liner to left field. Cross Clayton, Wyatt Hedrick, Hoffman, Guentensberger and Bradsher all scored in the fourth inning. Clayton finished out the game by striking out the side in the seventh inning. It was a good start for an Orange team that lost six starters from a squad that won the Central Conference championship last year and reached the 3A State Quarterfinals. Orange will face Eden Morehead, who won the 2A Eastern Regional championship last year, on Thursday night at 6PM in Hillsborough. It will be the second of six scheduled non conference games for Orange before the start of the Central Conference campaign against Western Alamance on March 19. 

No Leaf Cloer; Coleman Cloer scores 1,000th point, Orange routs Currituck County 85-62 in state playoffs

It’s already customary to think that Coleman Cloer can’t do much to surprise a spectator or fans.

Until you look at the record books.

In just his 45th game, Cloer surpassed the 1,000 point barrier on Tuesday night. It just happened to help Orange win its first state playoff game since 2017.

Cloer finished with 38 points in Orange’s 85-62 win over Currituck County at Panther Gymnasium in the opening round of the 3A State Men’s Basketball Playoffs. He is Orange’s first 1,000 point scorer since Jerec Thompson did it in 2022. Cloer needed 33 points to reach 1,000. As the Panthers pulled away from the Knights in the 4th quarter, Cloer looked over to Orange’s scorers table, where he friends held up fingers to signal how many points he had to go.

He wanted to make the milestone basket something special. Just like Babe Ruth calling his shot at Wrigley Field in the 1932 World Series or Michael Jordan shrugging his shoulders making six 3-pointers in the first half against Portland in the 1992 NBA Finals. So when he got to 999 points, Cloer peeked over to see his friends holding up one index finger.

Cloer pulled up from 25 feet.

Swish.

It sent the Orange crowd wild and the bench into hysteria. Cloer became the first Orange sophomore to score 1,000 points.

It’s believed that Eric English, who graduated in 1985, holds the school record. English didn’t surpass 2,000 points, according to the North Carolina High School Athletic Association record book. English only played three years because Orange didn’t add 9th grade until 1987, which was also the year the 3-point line was added in North Carolina high school basketball.

On the other hand, Cloer missed the first eight games of this year with a sprained ankle.

Orange (16-11), the 10th-seed in the 3A East Region, will travel to Rocky Mount to face the Northern Nash Knights on Friday night. Northern Nash, the champions of  the Big East Conference, defeated West Brunswick 87-50.

Orange’s last playoff win came against Triton on February 25, 2017 in the 3rd round of the 3A State Playoffs.

Junior guard Xandrell Pennix scored 15 points in the second half and finished with 21. The Panthers shot 55% from the field to build a 25-point lead in the second half.

The Knights (15-11) wouldn’t go away easily. Despite being heavily undersized, Currituck still managed to outrebound Orange 48-36, including 24 offensive rebounds. But the Knights shot just 28% from the field. Their top scorer, Luke Morgan, was held to ten points on 4-of-20 shooting. Jamie Dance, who averages 12.5 points per game, finished 1-of-12 from the field for eight points.

In the opening quarter, Orange sophomore guard Kai Wade aggressively drove the ball to the basket for an early 3-point play as he was fouled by Damon Duke. Orange center Mason Robinson, who finished with a single-game high of eight blocked shots, rejected a lay-up by Morgan to trigger a transition lay-in for Freddie Sneed to pull Orange ahead 9-5.

Wade finished with eleven points, six assists and five rebounds.

Consecutive 3-pointers from Morgan and Malcolm Cowell evened the game at 13-13 with 2:09 remaining in the first quarter. Robinson flushed down an ally-oop pass from Cloer to pull the Panthers back ahead, starting a 10-0 Orange run. Cloer scored off a feed from Sneed, then ended the quarter with a breakway dunk supplied by Pennix.

Orange never trailed again. They shot 7-of-9 from the field in the third quarter, including a trio of 3-pointers.

Currituck found an unlikely source of offense from senior Walter Bailey, who couldn’t stop draining shots from downtown late. Bailey, who appears to be set to become a future roadie for Luke Combs, shot 6-of-7 from 3-point range and led the Knights with 19 points. Orange already had the game in the bag by the time Bailey got hot, so even the Panthers student section started cheering for him. Bailey was fouled on a 3-point attempt with :0.6 remaining. As he attempted the free throws, the Orange students chanted “WAL-TER! WAL-TER!”

Softball Alumni Update: Davidson signs with Japanese Professional League

Mia Davidson: The all-time leading home run hitter in Orange High history has signed with the Denso Bright Pegasus of the Japan Diamond Softball League, the top professional organization in Japan. Davidson will play for the Bright Pegasus starting next week, as well as maintaining her American ties with Athletes Unlimited during the summer. The Diamond Softball League, commonly referred to as the “JD League,” has been in existence since 2022. Unlike the United States, which has struggled to maintain a standard individual franchise professional softball league despite the popularity of the sport in college and high school, the JD League has 16 teams. Denso Bright Pegasus was founded in 1960.

Takia Nichols: Nichols hit her first home run of the season for North Carolina Central against North Carolina on Tuesday night. The dinger gave the Eagles the lead, but UNC wound up winning 21-1 in five innings at Anderson Stadium in Chapel Hill. Over the weekend, the Eagles played in the Pirate Invitational at Joyner Family Stadium in Greenville. Nichols started in two games and went 1-for-2 with a double against Rider. The Broncs won 10-4. Nichols also started the second game of a doubleheader against East Carolina, which the Pirates won 5-0.

Mary Moss Wirt: Elon went 1-4 in the Duke Tournament in Durham last weekend. Wirt started at catcher in two games against Michigan State and against #8 Duke on Sunday. This weekend, the Phoenix will face off against UNC Greensboro at Hunt Softball Park in Elon.

Tori Dalehite: UNC Greensboro went 3-2 in the I-75 Tournament at Mewborn Field in Atlanta last weekend. In a 3-0 victory at Kennesaw State on Sunday, Dalehite entered the game as a pinch-hitter. In an 8-4 win over Robert Morris, Dalehite scored on a walkoff grand slam hit by Samantha Beck as the Spartans came back from a 4-0 deficit to win. Dalehite reached on an error leading up to the game-winning homer. Dalehite also played in a 13-1 victory over Army in five innings. Last week, Dalehite entered the game in the sixth inning as a reserve in a 6-4 loss to North Carolina.

Carson Bradsher: South Carolina Upstate hosted the Wings ETC Classic last weekend at Cyrill Stadium in Spartanburg, SC. The Spartans rolled past Monmouth 8-1. Bradsher scored as a pinch-runner in the sixth inning off of a sacrifice fly. On Saturday, Upstate defeated Monmouth again 9-0. Bradsher scored the final run of the day after Cassie Norris was hit by a pitch. Bradsher also entered the game in a reserve role in a 11-6 loss to Kentucky on Sunday. South Carolina Upstate went 2-3 in the event.

Lauren Jackson: Lenoir-Rhyne is now ranked #25 in Division II after sweeping four games from Barton and Johnson C. Smith at Bears Field in Hickory. Against the Golden Bulls, Jackson went 2-for-2 with an RBI single during a nine-run first inning. Jackson played as a pinch-hitter in a 4-0 win over Barton on Sunday in the opening game of a doubleheader. On Saturday, Jackson walked as a pinch-hitter in a 10-0 whitewashing of Barton in five innings.

Ava Lowry: Division III North Carolina Wesleyan started its season dropping a doubleheader to #9 Virginia Wesleyan over the weekend at Edge Field in Rocky Mount. On Saturday, the Battling Bishops swept Mid-Atlantic Christian in another doubleheader. Lowry, a former Cedar Ridge shortstop, hit a two-run homer in her first at-bat of the season in an 11-0 win over the Mustangs. In the nightcap, Lowry drew three walks and scored two runs as the Bishops won 17-4. Virginia Wesleyan won the opening game of Sunday’s doubleheader 6-5 in nine innings. The Bishops led 2-0 going into the seventh inning, but the Marlins tied the game in the seventh. Lowry finished 1-for-3. The Marlins claimed the second game 8-0. Lowry went 0-for-2.

Kelsey Tackett: Wesleyan’s opening weekend was also the first official games for Tackett, who played for Orange from 2020-2023.

Brianne Foster: Wake Tech Community College defeated Southwest Virginia 9-1 on Monday in William Peace University in Raleigh. Foster entered the game as a pinch-hitter. Foster started in left field as the Eagles swept the doubleheader with a 17-9 win in five innings. Foster started in left field. On Thursday, the Eagles will travel to North Myrtle Beach to face South Carolina Union.

Olivia Aitkin: The Division III Amherst College Mammoths will start its season on March 17 in a doubleheader against Endicott College and Rampo College. Aitkin will start her sophomore season after playing ten games last year, starting six. She had a batting average of .385 in 13 at-bats.