Orange Men’s Basketball

Orange men’s basketball’s Ryan Honeycutt and Xandrell Pennix discuss win at Northern Durham

Life is never easy on the road in high school basketball. Just before Thanksgiving, the Orange men’s basketball team had to battle a humid new gymnasium at Northern Durham, 12 straight fouls called against them in the second half and the loss of their leading scorer in a victory over Northern Durham on November 22. Junior guard Xandrell Pennix drained two clutch 3-pointers, including one with :54 seconds remaining that put the Panthers ahead 57-53. Pennix drained his final two shots from downtown and finished with 14 points. Orange center Ryan Honeycutt led the Panthers with 17 points. He also had seven rebounds. Orange won the first varsity game inside the new Northern Durham Gymnasium. Kai Wade added ten points as Orange improved to 2-0 despite the loss of sophomore Coleman Cloer, who suffered a left ankle injury two weeks ago during practice. Orange suffered a tough loss to Riverside on Tuesday night in Hillsborough, dropping its record to 2-2. The Panthers will play Jordan coming up tonight (Thursday) at Falcon Gymnasium. It will be the fourth DAC-VII opponent that the Panthers have faced this season. Orange defeated Hillside in the opener. will broadcast tonight’s game starting at 7 PM.

Orange men’s basketball’s Kai Wade & Malachi Poole discuss dramatic win over Hillside

The Orange men’s basketball team’s season opener will go down as a classic. The Panthers defeated Hillside in front of a packed Orange High Gymnasium on Friday night. In a frantic final 15 seconds, Kai Wade tied the game with a 12-foot jumper with ten seconds remaining. As Hillside tried to inbound, Freddy Sneed poked the ball away. Sneed threw the ball to Xandrell Pennix, who found a wide-open Malachi Poole on the wing. Poole, who had not attempted a shot in the game, fired in a 3-pointer with two seconds remaining. The crowd rushed the floor as Orange defeated Hillside for the first time since 2009. Wade has been a spark plug on offense since he started his first varsity game as a freshman last year in Orange’s opener against East Chapel Hill. With the leading scorer from last year, Coleman Cloer, out for the Hillside game with a sprained ankle, Wade carried the load offensively for the Panthers scoring 18 points. Orange will go for its second win of the season tonight (Tuesday) when they trek to the new Northern Durham High School to face the Knights. It will be the first trip for Orange to the new Northern Durham High School.

Malachi Cool–Poole drains last second jumper to lift Orange men’s basketball over Hillside 69-66 in season opener

It was no ordinary season opener.

Then again, it was no ordinary week for Orange men’s basketball leading up to its first game against Hillside on Friday night in Hillsborough. On Monday, Orange’s centerpiece, sophomore Coleman Cloer, suffered a broken left ankle after a fluky incident during practice. He is expected to miss at least two weeks.

Over the summer, Cloer received scholarship offers from N.C. State, Wake Forest, Tennessee and Appalachian State, just to name a few. He wore a walking boot on the Orange bench Friday night.

In Cloer’s absence, there would have to be an unlikely hero to emerge.

Fortunately, Malachi Poole was up to the task.

In a frantic final sequence, Orange point guard Kai Wade tied the game with a pull-up jumper from twelve feet over Suliaman Shackleford with nine seconds remaining.

As Orange set up a full court press with the game tied 66-66, Hillside’s Jayde Braswell threw a soft pass that was deflected by Panthers guard Freddy Sneed, who nearly bumped into an Orange teacher along the sidelines as he raked in the steal. With time drifting away, Sneed threw the ball to Xandrell Pennix, standing left of the lane facing the bleachers. Pennix didn’t see the basket, but he did see Poole standing alone on the wing wide open as the Hornets were caught off guard in the scramble. Pennix threw to Poole, who launched his only shot of the night. It swirled into the net with two seconds remaining to send the Orange student section into a collective roar.

Hillside coach Rashard Lee-Worthy had used all his timeouts and his team was too stunned to inbound the ball as the final moments ticked away. The students rushed the floor to celebrate a win that was a season opener in name only.

“At that point, they were turning us over,” said Orange coach Derryl Britt. “They were giving us trouble bringing the ball up. I knew that Kai was a little fatigued. So we needed to get another ball handler in. So we went to Malachi because he’s a shooter. Malachi has been going through some things. That was a big shot for us as a team, but it was a bigger shot for him, personally. I’m so happy for that guy.”

Orange won 69-66, its first victory over Hillside since December 9, 2009. Wade, a sophomore point guard finished with 18 points. Sneed, who had never scored in double-figures in a varsity game, came away with 16 points, five steals and four rebounds. The Panthers put four players in double-figures, including senior center Ryan Honeycutt, who finished with a double-double of 10 points and 13 rebounds.

Shackelford led Hillside with 24 points. Justin Lewis came off the bench to score 14 points, including four three-pointers.

The irony of Orange scoring the game-winning basket off a steal from full-court pressure was that Hillside rallied from 17 points down the exact same way. The Panthers committed seven turnovers in the fourth quarter, leading to the Hornets taking the lead with 4:12 remaining after a three-pointer from Brandon Watley, who scored all 12 of his points in the second half.

There were five lead changes in the final three minutes. Orange sophomore center Mason Robinson grabbed an offensive rebound and shoveled the ball off to Honeycutt for a lay-in to put the Panthers ahead 62-61 with 2:58 remaining.

Jayde Braswell was fouled by Honeycutt and sank two free throws. After a pass slipped through the hands of Hillside center T.J. Ray, Wade went behind-the-back and drilled a 13-footer. Orange maintained a 64-63 lead until the Hornets forced yet another turnover off its full-court pressure. Shackleford stole the ball from Wade, drove to the basket and scored on a lay-in and was fouled by Robinson. Shackleford’s free throw put the Hornets ahead 66-64.

Orange built a 51-34 lead with 2:39 remaining in the third quarter. Sneed completed a 13-1 Orange run with a steal and drive to the basket while he was fouled by Lewis, who picked up his fourth foul and was never a factor again. Pennix drilled the first of Orange’s two 3-pointers in the second half during the run. Pennix, who has played on the varsity since his freshman year, finished with 12 points.

“We took a gut punch on Monday night when Cole went down,” Britt said. “We realized it was a bit serious. We bent over, collected ourselves. Everybody went home and thought about it. Then on Tuesday afternoon, it was very similar to the St. Louis Rams when they lost Trent Green (in 1999). (The Rams went on to win the Super Bowl with Kurt Warner at quarterback). I told the team we have the players to win and we will play good basketball. Whether we win or lose games? We’ll see. But we will make other teams beat us.”

Even without Cloer, the Panthers shot 49% from the field. The Hornets used 21 offensive rebounds to keep things close. Orange never trailed in the first half, leading by as much as 32-26 after a dunk by Honeycutt from a lob by Robinson. with 3:32 remaining in the second quarter. Lewis scored 14 points in the first half to reduce Orange’s lead to 33-31 with 1:05 remaining, Robinson and Pennix scored the final field goals of the half to put the Panthers ahead 38-31 at halftime.


HIL–15   16   15    20–66

ORA–19  19   15   16–69

HILLSIDE–Brandon Watley 12, Justin Morgan 2, Suliaman Shackleford 24, Jayde Braswell 12, Justin Lewis 14, Quinton Cozart 2.

ORANGE–Xandrell Pennix 12, Freddy Sneed 16, Kai Wade 18, Ryan Moss 2, Ryan Honeycutt 10, Malaykhi Justice 2, Mason Robinson 4, Malachi Poole 3, Hector Garrido 2.

3-Point baskets: Hillside 9 (Watley 3, Lewis 4, Shackleford 2). Orange 3 (Pennix 2, Poole)

Rebounds: Hillside 34 (Shackleford 7) Orange 45 (Honeycutt 13)



Orange Panther of the Week: Kai Wade

This week’s Orange Panther of the Week is sophomore point guard Kai Wade of the men’s basketball team. Last year, Wade was one of three freshmen to regularly start for the Panthers. He was named All-Central Carolina Conference following a successful season which saw Orange reach the state playoffs for the first time since 2016-2017. The Panthers finished third in the CCC and Wade was the starting point guard for 25 games. He was second on the team with 11.5 points per game. He also led the team with 2.8 assists per game and 1.8 steals per game. For much of the spring and summer, Kai has traveled throughout the country playing summer basketball. His presence in Orange’s backcourt led Orange to its first winning season in six years. Wade will be among the young faces in the lineup next year as Orange aims to reach the top of the new CCC, where Northwood is out of the league and Southern Alamance is in. It was announced earlier this summer that Orange will play in the John Wall Invitational at Broughton High School in Raleigh this summer, one of the most prestigious holiday tournaments in the state.

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.



Britt named CCC Men’s Basketball Coach of the Year

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