When the state 3A basketball tournament begins this week, Chapel Hill coach Sherry Norris won’t have to worry about how her Tigers handle adversity.
They handled plenty last week.
Playing their fourth game in five days, the Tigers defeated Cardinal Gibbons 48-34 Friday in the championship game of the Big Eight Tournament. Trailing 34-29, Chapel Hill outscored the Crusaders 19-4 in the last 8 minutes to beat Gibbons for the second time this week.
Jamella Smith led CHHS (26-0) with 18 points. Raziyah Farrington seized control of the game for Chapel Hill when she forced a steal at midcourt and drew an intentional foul with 2:50 remaining. Farrington, who hit 29 straight free throws during a recent practice, drained the free throws to give the Tigers the lead. Center Catherine Romaine hit a jumper on the ensuing possession to push the advantage to 39-36. Gibbons hit only one field goal from that point forward.
The five-player senior class, led by co-captains Romaine and Smith, claimed four conference championships during their stint at CHHS.
This one will be the most special.
On Monday, Romaine rolled her ankle late in the regular-season finale against Gibbons. She missed the first two games of the tournament, and she had plenty of company on the bench.
Senior Jasmine Suitt missed the semifinal game against Southern Durham. Starting point guard Tamia Eatmon was drained by the flu and played sparingly. Still, the Tigers found a way to win over the Spartans.
“They’ve proved what a team they are,” said Norris. “The other girls stepped up and filled the void. Southern Durham is a good basketball team, and that was an impressive win for us considering we were undermanned.”
In the title game, Romaine’s injury prompted Norris to play more zone. That led to a battle of tempos that the half-court oriented Crusaders largely controlled.
Chapel Hill’s full-court press finally seized the day in the fourth quarter, with Farrington scoring 8 of her 12 points in the final frame.
Morgan Reid paced the Crusaders with 16 points.
Despite her sore ankle, Romaine still managed 10 points and will finish her high school career with more than 1,000 total.
Now, with a perfect regular season and a conference championship already in the bag, the Tigers will start on the journey they’ve aimed for all season this Monday.
“We’re right where we want to be,” said Norris.
Southern upsets Orange
It would be inaccurate to say the Big Eight Conference conference tournament was one any boys basketball team could win. About six would be more like it.
In the end, No. 3 seed Southern Durham came away with the trophy in a track meet against No. 1 Orange – a 67-53 win played at Chapel Hill High School that was so frantic it would have made NBDL players proud.
Amari Hamilton led the Spartans with 24 points, including the first 10 of the game.
Orange, which started February with a loss at Southern, was led by Eryk Brandon-Dean and J.D. Brooks with 18 each.
The Spartans won despite 23 turnovers. Southern's 94-feet, up-tempo style would seem excessive for playing three games in four days, but Coach Kendrick Hall disagreed.
"I don't know how to play any other way," said Hall. "I don't want to play any other way."
Spartans edge out Tigers in semifinals
Amari Hamilton and Marvin Tillman each scored 15 points while Kendall Hinton added 13 Thursday night to help No. 3-seeded Southern Durham upset Chapel Hill in the Big Eight boys basketball semifinals.
Chapel Hill (19-7) led the back-and-forth game early and was tied 38-38 with Southern (14-10) at the end of three periods, but the Spartans were able to shut down most of the Tigers’ inside scoring and hit some big free throws down the stretch.
Andy Gillespie scored 11 points and Shane Turner 10 to pace Chapel Hill.