HILLSBOROUGH — “Next Man Up” is a catchphrase that’s supposed to apply solely to football. On Friday night, it decided the fate of two basketball teams.
On a foul-plagued night, both Orange and Eastern Alamance had their top scorers foul out, amid other players with foul trouble. In the end, Orange found the players to replace their stars, and it paved the road to Fayetteville.
The Panthers defeated the Eagles 86-78 to win the sectional championship in the 3A state playoffs in front of a standing room only crowd at Jim King Gymnasium. The win avenged a loss to the Eagles in the first round of the 2013 state playoffs
Orange will face West Brunswick in the East Regional semifinals Tuesday at Crown Coliseum in Fayetteville.
J.D. Brooks led Orange with 23 points and 12 rebounds Friday, while Keegan Crabtree added 22. Eastern Alamance was paced by Lamont Robinson with 28 points, despite fouling out with 4:30 remaining. Fouls were the theme of the night.
Crabtree also fouled out for Orange with 1:37 remaining, and starting point guard Eryk Brandon-Dean missed the meat of the second half with his own foul trouble.
After Orange led by as many as 17, Eastern’s Davari Moore hit two free throws to cut the Orange lead to 78-75 with 2:10 remaining.
That’s when Brooks became the “next man up,” scoring six points in the final two minutes. The biggest came when Brooks got his own rebound on a missed free throw and slammed home 2 points that put Orange in the clear.
“It’s not like we haven’t had adversity because of fouls before,” said Orange Coach Greg Motley, who earned his second sectional championship. “We didn’t have J.D. and Keegan for big stretches for the Cardinal Gibbons game. But I believe in our kids, and we go from there.”
Despite tense moments late, Orange never trailed. The Panthers bolted out to a 16-4 lead in the first quarter behind early 3-pointers from Crabtree and Jawan Chambers. The Panthers led 47-32 at the half on the strength of a 7-0 run late in the second quarter, capped by another Chambers trey.
Trailing 72-59 with 6:29 remaining, Eastern rattled off a 7-0 run within 35 seconds to narrow the Eagles’ deficit to 72-65, scoring three field goals off Orange turnovers in rapid fashion. Even after Robinson fouled out, the Eagles fought to within 78-75 with 2:14 remaining before Brooks scored 6 of the Panthers’ final 8 points.
Eastern Alamance finished 4-of-31 from 3-point range.
Tigers end year at Orange
“It’s always tough when you play a conference opponent for a third time,” said Orange coach Greg Motley. “You know everything that each of you do well.”
Chapel Hill did everything it could to make Wednesday‘s second round game as tough as possible on the Panthers, but in the end Orange simply had too many weapons for the Tigers to overcome as they fell 72-63.
Jawan Chambers scored 11 points in the second quarter to help the Panthers break open a close game and beat their Big Eight Conference rivals for the third time this year. Chambers and Keegan Crabtree each finished with 15 points and J.D. Brooks had 18 points.
Chapel Hill (19-8) was within 57-51 after a basket by Andy Gillespie with 5:50 to play. But Chapel Hill came up empty on its next seven possessions, and Orange went up 64-51 on a 3-pointer by Crabtree with 2:51 left. The Tigers never got closer than 66-58 in the final 2 minutes.
Gillespie ended up with 14 points for Chapel Hill. Jeremy Werden led the Tigers with 16 points.
“It always hurts some when you lose,” first-year Chapel Hill coach Lason Perkins said. But he added the Tigers should be proud that they shared the conference championship with a team as talented as Orange.