Chapel Hill coach Lason Perkins is pleased that his Tigers have been winning. But what makes him happier is that they are improving.
“I think we are improving every day,” Perkins said last weekend. “Our focus has been on our trust. We talk about trusting the process. It’s a process of improvement.”
Chapel Hill has stayed ahead of the curve, taking one step back and two steps forward since starting the season 3-1 in November.
Led by a double-double by freshman David Caraher, the Tigers upped their record to 8-4 overall and 3-0 in the Big Eight conference games with Friday’s 50-40 victory at Northern Vance.
“We are improving,” Perkins said. “I really think that in every game we are getting a little bit better, a little more confident, and to be 3-0 in the conference is huge.”
Perkins, in his first season as head coach at Chapel Hill, took over a Tiger program last summer that would return just two players with any varsity experience – senior Shane Turner and junior Brian Thornton.
Both figured prominently in Chapel Hill’s defense-dominated win at Northern Vance.
Turner hit three 3-pointers in the first half, nailing two in the game’s opening two minutes for an early 6-3 Chapel Hill lead that the Tigers would never lose.
Thornton, who scored eight points, hit both ends of a one-and-one in the fourth quarter as Chapel Hill sewed up the win by making 10 of 11 free throws in the game’s last 3:51.
Northern Vance (5-7, 1-2) stayed within single digits of Chapel Hill until Caraher sank two throws with 32 seconds left for the game’s last points.
Caraher did all of his scoring in the second half, all his points coming from the lane or at the line.
“My teammates were getting me the ball,” Caraher said. “Andy (Gillespie) and Brian Thorton did a really good job of feeding me. I started attacking the rim and not settling for my jumper.”
Caraher said the Tigers doubled down in practice after a 49-36 loss against a hot-shooting Bunn team in the Wildcats’ own Holiday Tournament. Bunn, which had won nine straight through last week, hit 35 of 49 shots (71 percent) against Chapel Hill.
“That loss really focused us as a team and brought us back to basics and fundamentals,” Caraher said. “We were really focused as a team in practice. I felt confident coming into this game that we were all really prepared – players and coaches.”
Perkins knew the loss at Bunn bothered his players, but he told them to slough it off.
“I told just them that the loss in the Christmas tournament is not going to affect us,” Perkins said. “What is going to affect us are these next 12 games in our conference.
“That is going to be what determines where we will be in the playoffs. That will determine if the seniors will get to make history for this program, to be the first group to win a conference title all four years. It’s a big expectation. I am just trying to keep them more focused on improving each game.”