CHAPEL HILL - The Chapel Hill High School Tigers appear to have picked up where they left off last winter.
Chapel Hill, which opened last year’s girls’ basketball season with a 10-game win streak and won its last 15 heading into the state playoffs, barely seemed winded after routing East Chapel Hill on its home court 74-25 Friday.
Coach Sherry Norris’ team, with its fourth straight win over its cross-town rival, once again has the look of a juggernaut.
“We play really good defense, and when you do a good job defensively and get a lot of turnovers, you get layups,” Norris said as her team celebrated in the locker room.
“That’s going to make any offense look good.”
Chapel Hill (3-0) held East (0-3) scoreless for the first five minutes of each half, opening the game with a 20-0 run and then expanding a 27-point halftime lead with a 10-0 run to start the third quarter.
Norris wasn’t thrilled with the Tigers shooting 29-of-80 from the field (36.3 percent) but it was hard to argue with the 80 shots.
Chapel Hill forced 26 turnovers and scored 28 points in transition.
The Tigers did even better on the boards.
They out-rebounded East Chapel Hill by a 63-41 margin, and the Tigers grabbed 26 offensive boards, getting 29 second-chance points.
Chapel Hill’s Jessica Wall led all scorers with 18 points, hitting four 3-pointers along the way.
Adrienne Davis led East Chapel Hill with seven points; ninth-grader Ali Cyr-Scully added six, sophomore Sarah Towne five and junior Teara Holt four for East.
“Jesse Wall just had a phenomenal shooting night,” Norris said. “We have some set plays to get her the ball on the wing for 3-pointers. That’s her shot.”
Mariah Jacobs and Tamia Eatmon each chipped in eight points for the Tigers. Every Chapel Hill player played, and all but two scored – and Norris blamed herself for that, saying she could have played those two more.
As it was, Norris cleared her bench early and sat her starters for most of the second half. Even that worked against East’s attempts to stay close. Chapel Hill’s Wall was among those coming off the bench. The sophomore guard scored eight points in the game’s last 5:42, six off two 3-pointers. Jacobs, a freshman, likewise came off the bench late in each quarter to hit two 3-pointers.
“We were 27-3 last year, and we graduated two from that team,” Norris noted. “We have a lot of depth.
“Teams might be able to match up with our first five, but then we can play five more and have five more ready to play. When you can do that, you can keep pressure on the other team. Most teams don’t have that luxury.”
Chapel Hill pressed in the game’s opening minutes, forcing turnovers on 10 of the Wildcats’ first 16 possessions. The Tigers scored 13 points off those opening turnovers and led 20-2 after the first quarter.
Chapel Hill held East without a field goal until the 6:45 mark of the second quarter, when Riley Foster fed Teara Holt along the baseline for a backdoor layup.
The young Wildcats played hard and well, but Chapel Hill’s defense was on fire.
“It was intense out there, especially with the roar of the crowd spurring us on,” said Laura Musalem, one of Chapel Hill’s five seniors.
Musalem, the team’s best shooter, averaging 64 percent from the field this season, still only played limited minutes, getting four points as Norris substituted early and often.
“It’s not always about the other team,” Musalem said. “It’s about us focusing on what we need to do.”
Musalem traced the true source of the Tigers intensity back to last year’s 47-46 loss to Burlington Williams in the state quarterfinals.
“It was tough losing that game in Fayetteville,” she said.
“We were doing so well and then everything just ended. We’re more motivated than ever to go all the way.”
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