Boys Basketball: East Chapel Hill 38, Chapel Hill 34:
Published: Dec 01, 2012 02:11 PM
Modified: Dec 01, 2012 02:12 PM
CHAPEL HILL - East Chapel Hill played host to its neighborly rival in front of a raucous sold-out crowd Friday night and earned its first win against Chapel Hill in more than a year.
In the first of two meetings, the Tigers came out focused. They had dominated the series lately, winning three straight.
But, determined to showcase a classic for their fans, the Wildcats came out firing on all cylinders. Senior forward Jake Hikey set the tone by burying the game’s opening jumper. While the Tigers played conservative defense , they were charged with two early fouls that proved pivotal in the opening minutes.
A backcourt violation by the Wildcats, followed by players tumbling to the floor for a jump ball in the next sequence, showed that this was going to turn out to be a gritty, defensive battle down the stretch. Tigers senior forward Ryan Hegedus began to take command with a powering layup that would even the score early on.
The Tigers coaching staff led by Tod Morgan began to call their “Bama” play. But when a 3-point attempt by Andy Gillespie fell short, Tykeem Woodward in transition buried a 3-pointer of his own for the lead. A 6-2 Wildcats lead, increased to an 8-4 edge by quarter’s end.
That’s right. After all thaat action, it was an 8-4 game.
“Neither team shot the ball well, but both teams competed, and grinded it out,” said East Chapel Hill coach Ray Hartsfield, who has said more than once he likes a game score in the 50s.
“It was never more than one or two possessions,” he said. “We were playing with the tempo that we are comfortable with. We were trying to make a stand without getting into a sit-down defense.”
A game of runs, Friday’s matchup also was a talke of two halves. At the break, the Wildcats’ “Eastside” section of student boosters serenaded the teams with chants of “I believe that we will win”, setting the tone for a physical second half, with a dramatic finish.
With Chapel Hill (2-1) trailing 23-21after three quarters of play, CHHS senior guard Stephen Himmelberg Jr. capped a mini-run for the Tigers with two free throws and then stripping a Wildcat of the ball and going coast-to-coast for a 29-28 Chapel Hill lead.
Himmleberg hit hs next three shots from the free throw line to stretch the lead to 32-28 with 4:12 left to play.
East’s Robert Wilson hit two free throws of his own, chipping away at the Tiger lead.
In the game’s final minute, with East down 32-30, Wildcat guards Louis Levin and Justen Best saved their best for last.
Levin fed a pass to Best in the corner and, with Tigers defenders draped all over him, Best drained a go-ahead 3-pointer that sent Wildcat Gym into pandemonium. Eastside’s jubilation hit another gear as Best sank his ensuing free throw for a 36-34 Wildcat lead with less than 10 seconds to go.
“It felt great, but see I train for these moments. ... My mindset is to win. I know we can do it,” Best said, adding “I’ve got to thank God.”
With 2 seconds remaining, Chapel Hill called a timeout to set up a long inbounds play in an attempt for a tying basket, but Ryan Hegedus’s heave hit the ceiling.
Before East could inbound the ball and kill the clock, Himmelberg dragged Best to the floor in an attempt to draw a foul, but officials ruled it an intentional foul. Best nailed the two foul shots and East inbounded the following possession to run out the clock.
Eastside students stormed the gymnasium’s floor, ignoring security officers’ attempts to hold them back.
“I hate rivalry games,” Hartsfield said. “The kids enjoy this game, it’s great for the community, it’s great for the town.”
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