Published: Feb 23, 2013 12:30 AM
Modified: Feb 23, 2013 12:31 AM
Most high school students eagerly anticipate the end of a spring semester and the coming of summer.
In the case of East Chapel Hill High School’s basketball players, it’s more like they “can’t hardly wait.”
The Wildcats first must endure the month of March and the N.C. High School Athletics Association’s state playoffs. Neither the East girls’ or boys’ team will take part in those — the first time in years they’ve been left out.
Both teams needed to win last week’s Piedmont Athletics Conference tournament to qualify. Both were knocked out in the tournament’s first round.
The East Chapel Hill boys lost to Durham Hillside, 55-50, their third loss to the Hornets in two weeks. East’s girls lost 44-26 at Jordan last Tuesday.
The Wildcats girls (6-17) had the same trouble most opponents have had this year with Jordan’s Bayley Coleman-Cox, the Falcons’ all-time leading scorer in girls’ basketball. She had a game-high 19 points against East, while teammate Salita Greene added 11.
Typical of the Wildcat boys’ pattern against the better teams on their schedule, seventh-seeded East Chapel Hill played up to the level of their opponent last Tuesday. East led No. 2-seeded Hillside 27-25 at halftime, and the game was tied at 44 apiece in the fourth period.
But the Wildcats had trouble coming up with the fourth-period stops needed to win; Hillside’s DeShon Self scored eight of his team-high 15 points in the last quarter, and East finished it’s season at 9-16.
“I know what people expect, but there will always be some times when we’ll just have to be patient and let the kids grow up,” East’s boys head coach Ray Hartsfield said. “We had some young guys out there who were really competing and who will be back next year – when they won’t be so young. They’re going to have a lot of varsity experience under their belt.”
Hartsfield’s team came into the year with just three seasoned players: 6-0 Justen Best, 5-8 Louis Levin and 6-3 Robert Wilson. With new players added in, the team had plenty of talent, but never really blended well as injuries kept forcing Hartsfield to change his lineup.
No one injury was catastrophic, but each one disrupted the team’s chemistry. And two injuries in particular – a broken foot for 6-6 sophomore Lawyer Dallas, and a knee problem for 6-2 junior guard Tykeem Woodard – had ripple effects on the team’s height.
By season’s end, East was relying on two, 6-4, first-year varsity players – Jake Hilkey and Jaison Jones – for a lot of play in the post.
Toward the end of the season, East Chapel Hill played well, but was still trying to catch up with other conference teams that had their chemistry set.
“The last two games, I was really proud of their effort and their cohesiveness,” Hartsfield said of his players.
“We had an influx of good kids. But they had never played together. Conversely, the one thing we knew is that nine of those kids were coming back next year.”
Even without adding anyone from the junior varsity, East would have a solid lineup for next year: Dallas, Wilson, Woodard, Dylan Farrow, Malik McCray, Arkavius Parks, Jerry Chang, Todd Smith and Erik Haig.
Hartsfield said his players already are eager to get to the off-season, when they can return to working together, and to the all-important summer — when East and most other quality programs take part in extensive play in weekend tournaments.
“We’re real excited about getting all these kids back and having them together in the off-season, having them go through the spring together, the summer together and the fall workouts and just really getting to know each other,” Hartsfield said.
“We’ll just try to get better. While this was a really tough year, now I’m really looking forward to next year.”