The furthest east any 3A sports team can go for the 3A State Playoffs is to Morehead City to face West Carteret.
It’s longitude is 76.786, about 13 miles east of Havelock, which has a longitude of 76.893.
While it’s a long drive that the Orange men’s basketball team will make to return to the state basketball playoffs on Tuesday night, it’s one they’re still willing to take.
On Saturday night, the North Carolina High School Athletic Association released its field of 64 for the 3A State Men’s Basketball playoffs. The Panthers received a #19 seed and will face #14 West Carteret in the opening round on Tuesday night. The winner will face either Northern Nash or Croatan in the second round.
Orange (17-9) will make its first playoff appearance since 2017, when they reached the state quarterfinals. The Panthers’ last postseason win came against Trition on February 25, 2017, a night of mixed blessings. Orange roared out to a 28-2 lead behind a superhuman effort from senior point forward Connor Crabtree. With Orange leading 40-17, Crabtree tore a ligament in his right ankle late in the first quarter after he came down wrong on a rebound. It ended his high school career like a star that burned brightest before it disappeared. Orange lost to Northern Guilford three days later.
West Carteret (17-7) finished 2nd in the Costal Conference behind White Oak. In 2022, the Patriots reached the 3A Eastern Regional championship game, beating Northwood in the state quarterfinals in Morehead City. Fayetteville 71st edged the Patriots 74-70 to advance to the state championship game.
The Patriots lost two starters from last year’s team, but still returned Dylan McBride and Worth Stack to a team that has a wealth of experience. West Carteret has six players who have entered 20 games this Eason. Overall, they have ten seniors on the roster.
That serves as the polar opposite of an Orange team that has been revitalized by youth. Freshman Coleman Cloer has had twelve 20-point games and is already at 518 points, which may very well be a school record for a freshman. Kai Wade, a freshman point guard, has started in 25 of Orange’s 26 games. Junior center Ryan Honeycutt is in his first season as a varsity player, while freshman Mason Robinson is also a regular contributor for a Panther team that just ended a string of five consecutive losing seasons.
The Panthers were eliminated in the semifinals of the Central Carolina Conference Tournament last Wednesday by Person in Roxboro. West Carteret was eliminated in the Coastal Conference semifinals by Swansboro, who eventually defeated White Oak to win the conference tournament.
Swansboro and West Carteret tied for 2nd in the Coastal Conference with identical 7-3 marks.
Overall, four teams from the CCC made the state playoffs, most of whom got tough draws based on various conference tournament championship games across the region jumbling up the RPI rankings at the last minute. Only Northwood, who defeated Person to win the CCC Tournament, will get a home game in the opening round. The Chargers, seeded #1, will host West Johnston on Tuesday.
Person, who appeared set to host a home game in the opening round for weeks, fell victim to an upset in the Big Carolina Conference Tournament Championship. Basically, South Central stole the Rockets’ home game when they surprised Jacksonville on Friday night. Instead, the Rockets will travel to Fayetteville to face Westover.
Walter Williams was the fourth CCC team to make the playoffs. The Bulldogs will travel to Rocky Mount, who received the #12 seed out of the Big East Conference.
Eastern Alamance was the last team out of the field of 64.
On Friday night, Cloer was named to the Central Carolina Conference All-Tournament team in Pittsboro. He was joined by Northwood’s Drake Powell, Max Frazier and Jake Leighton, Person’s Julian Crawley and Lance Clarke.
From the beginning of this season, the goal of the Orange men’s basketball team has been to make the State Playoffs. Now, the Panthers have achieved their goal after a 17-win regular season, its best total since 2017. Two of the seniors on this Orange squad have helped immeasurably. Thomas Loch has been a member of the varsity team since his freshman year. He played well off the bench as Orange mounted a comeback against Person in the Central Carolina Conference semifinals in Roxboro on Wednesday night. Caleb Barreto joined Orange last fall after transferring from Wake Forest. He scored eleven points in Orange’s win over Eastern Alamance on February 10. Barreto and his brother Jackson have helped coach Derryl Britt develop the deepest team in his five-year tenure at Orange. The Panthers nearly reached the Central Carolina Conference Tournament championship game after rallying from 19-points down against Person on Wednesday. Now, they will venture into the 3A State Tournament, which starts on Tuesday. The Panthers will be on the road for the opening round.
ROXBORO–The most unlikely comeback started with the most unlikely players for Orange against their neighboring rival.
It was a move so unexpected, so unorthodox and so surprising, it nearly led to the Panthers reaching its first conference tournament final since 2017.
Yet once again, Person found a way to foil Orange, this time in the Central Carolina Conference Tournament semifinal.
Senior Julian Crawley and reserve guard Quante Bowman each scored 15 points as the Rockets (21-4) defeated Orange 59-54 at Rockets Gymnasium. It was the Rockets third win over the Panthers this season.
For the second year in a row, Person advanced to the Central Carolina Conference Tournament championship game, where they will face Northwood on Friday night in Pittsboro. The Chargers easily disposed of Walter Williams 62-45 in Wednesday’s other semifinal.
Person led by as many as 18 points in the first half with a relentless 3-point attack. The Rockets drained eight shots from downtown, including 13 points from Bowman in the second quarter.
Person coach Charles Dacus employed and box-and-one defense focused solely on limiting Orange’s Coleman Cloer, who had three different Rockets defending him on the night. Cloer was held to five points in the first half and Person opened up a 39-20 lead at halftime.
Midway through the third quarter, Orange coach Derryl Britt inserted Jackson Barreto, a guard who spent most of this season on the junior varsity team. Ask anyone who knows Orange basketball who would be the best player off the bench to jump start a comeback, Barreto probably wouldn’t exactly be the first player to come to mind. Heck, he wouldn’t be the first Barreto to come to mind. Jackson’s brother, Caleb, scored eight points against Eastern Alamance last Friday on Senior Night while Jackson finished out JV season.
Yet Jackson, and later senior Thomas Locke, were chosen by Britt to replace two starters in the third quarter and they clearly made a difference. Barreto scored a career-high 12 points, while Locke came up with several crucial steals and drew a charge against Person’s Isaiah Smith in the fourth quarter, who would eventually foul out with only five points.
“At that time, we needed offense,” Britt said. “We needed to make a comeback. I needed shooting. I knew that Thomas could help space the floor. Jackson is one of the best shooters and heady players we have in the program. Jackson went in and served multiple purposes, to guard Crawley. That might seem like a weird matchup to some people, but we know how smart Jackson is. What he lacks in physical stature, he makes up for in heady play.”
Person was so dominant in the first half, the normally raucous Rockets fans emotionally checked out to start the third quarter. Cloer got Orange out of the doldrums with a 3-pointer to open the second half, then a tip-in off a miss by Xandrell Pennix. Then he drained another 3-pointer to make it 41-28. Barreto came in with 5:12 remaining in the third quarter and didn’t leave, then knocked down a 3-pointer to cut the Rockets’ lead to 43-31.
Pennix scored on a strip and steal lay-in at the end of the third quarter to move Orange within ten at 49-39. After Smith opened the fourth quarter with a free throw, Barreto knocked down another 3-pointer. Barreto scored on a transition lay-in off a feed from Kai Wade to make it 50-44, then Cloer drove into the lane and scored off a finger-roll, which forced a Person timeout and the Orange players got a standing ovation from the Panther fans in the visitor’s section.
Suddenly, the relaxation in the Person fan section ended and virtually all of the students watched the final minutes standing in nervous anticipation.
Person struck back with two free throws from Bowman and a stickleback basket from Romello Snow to build its lead to 54-46. Yet Barreto came back with another 3-pointer with 3:23 remaining. Crawley missed a 10-footer, which was rebounded by Cloer, who was fouled by Crawley. Cloer drained both free throws.
Cloer got a steal on the next possession and wound up back at the line after another foul by Crawley. Cloer split a pair to whittle the Rockets’ lead to 54-52 with 2:38 left.
The Panthers had no less than five chances to tie the game in the final minutes. Three finger roll attempts by various Orange players missed. Person’s C.J. Hunt, who didn’t play in the second game against the two teams in Hillsborough two weeks ago, cashed in three big free throws late to put the game away. The Rockets won despite not getting a field goal in the final four minutes. Sophomore Lance Clarke’s 13 points all came in the first half.
Orange will wait for its destination for the 3A State Playoffs. The field of 64 will be released on Saturday. It will be Orange’s first state playoff appearance since 2017.
PERSON 59, ORANGE 54
ORANGE: 9 11 19 15-54
PERSON: 17 22 10 10-59
ORANGE: Xandrell Pennix 4, Kai Wade 11, Coleman Cloer 17, Ryan Honeycutt 6, Malachi Poole 3, Jackson Barreto 11, Thomas Locke 2.
PERSON: Isaiah Smith 5, Lance Clarke 13, Julian Crawley 15, Julian Lunsford 2, Romello Snow 4. Quante Bowman 15, DaeJon Hodge 2, C.J. Hunt 3.
3-Point goals: Orange 7 (Wade, Cloer 2, Poole, Barreto 3) Person 8 (Clarke 3, Crawley Bowman 4)
Fouled out: Person (Smith) Orange-none.
The Orange men’s basketball team has advanced to the semifinals of the Central Carolina Conference Tournament. On Monday night, the Panthers pulled away from Cedar Ridge 83-61 at Orange High Gymnasium for its first home postseason win since 2017. The last time the Panthers captured a postseason victory, it was in the third round of the 3A State Playoffs when they defeated Triton. Orange seniors Darius Corbett, Kaleb Barnhardt, Isaiah Seymour, Thomas Locke and Caleb Barreto started on Friday night for their victory over Eastern Alamance that ended the regular season. Against the Eagles, all five of the Orange seniors scored, including Barreto getting five points. Barnhardt was crowned the Homecoming King last November at halftime of the Panthers’ football game against Cedar Ridge. Corbett was named All-Conference for the Orange soccer team last fall. A Captain, Corbett helped the Panthers reach the state playoffs for the first time since 2017. Isiah Seymour has started at center for portions of the last two years and scored seven points against Cedar Ridge on Monday night. The five Orange seniors will be on the bench on Wednesday night when the Panthers face Person in the CCC Tournament semifinals in Roxboro.
When the odds are against you with your season on the line, the best you can do is go out swinging.
That’s what Cedar Ridge seniors Jonovan Wingate and Colton Taylor, in their final game, did against Orange on Monday night.
Facing an Orange team with an infusion of young talent that has taken it to the upper half of the Central Carolina Conference, Wingate injected hope for Cedar Ridge with two early 3-pointers and came away with a team-high 13 points on the night. Taylor added two more treys late.
Once again, it was the Panthers’ depth that carried it past its crosstown rival. This time, it was in the Central Carolina Conference Tournament.
Panther freshman Coleman Cloer scored 23 points while another freshman, Kai Wade, added 17 to lift Orange over Cedar Ridge 83-61 at Panther Gymnasium. The Panthers (17-6) advance to face Person in the semifinals on Wednesday night in Roxboro at 6PM.
Cloer is already at 503 career points with his freshman season not even over yet. He’s had twelve 20-point games this season and has scored in double figures in 23 of 24 games.
Cedar Ridge ends the season 6-16.
It’s the first time in six years that Orange is assured of a state playoff birth while playing in a conference tournament. By his own admission, Panthers coach Derryl Britt, to coin a term used by Queen in the 1980s, wants it all and wants it now. Which is why he was unhappy with his team’s first half.
“We’ve been working on some things and we expected them to work better,” Britt said. “When you’ve beaten a team twice already, it can be hard to get guys up to play sometimes. Our veteran guys haven’t been through postseason play. So trying to get them to understand not to play while watching the scoreboard, just to play the best basketball we can play, is a work in progress.”
In his final game for Cedar Ridge, senior Colton Taylor scored eleven points. It was the end of a whirlwind four months for first-year Red Wolves head coach Mike Jones, a former East Chapel Hill assistant who was hired just
“Jonovan played as well as he’s played all year,” Jones said. “Johnny shot the ball real well tonight. I’m real proud of him and I’m proud of my guys.”
A quick 10-0 burst by Orange early in the second quarter put the game out of reach. It started with a 3-pointer from Cloer, followed by a steal from Xandrell Pennix. Wade notched another steal and drove to the basket for a lay-in while getting fouled by Corin Wingate to take Orange’s lead to 31-16 with 6:46 remaining in the first half. Cloer added another 3-pointer.
Cedar Ridge fought back with a hook shot from Harrison Perel, followed by a 3-pointer from Wingate. Taylor hit five free throws in the second quarter, but the Panthers ended the run with another 3-pointer from Cloer.
It’s the second straight year that Orange has advanced in the CCC Tournament. It was their first home win in a tournament since they defeated Triton in the third round of the 2017 3A State Tournament.
Now that Jones’ first season is over, he will have something that he didn’t have from the moment he was hired: time.
He was forced to hit the ground running in November with barely enough time to get a team established, not to mention losing transfer Neco Clark to Southern Durham. He expects to take a month off before he gathers his team back for offseason workouts.
Despite the record, Jones maintained his enthusiasm during his first year as a head coach.
“It was up-and-down,” Jones said. “It was my first year. We learned a lot. I’ve learned a lot. I’m gonna grow a lot from this year. I think all of my kids, we grew as people. We grew as basketball players and I grew as a coach. I think the mindset is changing. The culture is changing. We don’t go into basketball games expecting to lose anymore. We go up and we fight. That’s the mindset. We’re just trying to get bigger, stronger, faster for next year.”
ORANGE 83, CEDAR RIDGE 61
CEDAR RIDGE: Colton Taylor 11, Landon Dalehite 9, Hayden KIrk 6, Braeden Wilbourn 2, Jonovan Wingate 13, Corin Wingate 4, Harrison Perel 10, Elijah Jenkins 2, Evan Marty 2, Brian Valentine 2.
ORANGE: Xandrell Pennix 7, Kai Wade 17, Ryan Honeycutt 14, Kaleb Barnhardt 4, Coleman Cloer 23, Ryan Moss 3, Isaiah Seymour 7, Malachi Poole 2, Caleb Barreto 4.
3-Pointers: CEDAR RIDGE 6 (Taylor 2, J. Wingate 3, Perel) Orange 6 (Cloer 4, Pennix, Wade, Moss)