Kai Wade

After scoring 14 points in a 66-29 victory over Central Conference rival Williams on Tuesday, January 24, Orange High guard Kai Wade scored 11 points Friday night as the Panthers blew out crosstown rival Cedar Ridge, 72-44. Wade and Panthers improved to 15-6 overall and 7-2 in Central Conference play this winter with the victories over the Bulldogs and Red Wolves.

The Orange High men’s and women’s basketball teams completed season sweeps of Hillsborough rival Cedar Ridge on Friday night, as the Panthers traveled across town to CRHS and handed the Red Wolves a pair of losses. The Cedar Ridge men’s and women’s teams were coming off a pair of setbacks to Central Conference frontrunners Northwood on Tuesday night, and came into Friday night’s contests seeking redemption. 

Unfortunately for Cedar Ridge, however, they ran into a pair of determined OHS squads who were also out to prove something. The Panthers women’s team was out for redemption itself coming off a loss earlier in the week, while the Panthers men’s squad was looking to continue building momentum in what has turned into a breakthrough season for head coach Derryl Britt’s team. 

In the women’s game, Cedar Ridge got off to a fantastic start, as a 3-pointer and then another score by Amiyah Ware made the count 16-8 in favor of the Red Wolves early on. The Panthers got a 3-pointer to pull within 16-11 heading into the second quarter, and then began to cut into the Red Wolves lead. Addison Atkins sank a 3-pointer midway through the second period to make the score 18-15 in favor of CRHS. But Ware converted a pair of free throws and made another basket before halftime as the Red Wolves went into the intermission leading, 22-16. 

Ware stretched Cedar Ridge’s lead to 24-16 with a bucket in the opening minutes of the third quarter, but another 3-pointer by Atkins pulled the Panthers within 24-19. Then the Panthers sank two more 3-pointers back-to-back, which tied the game at 25-25. Cedar Ridge briefly reclaimed the lead, but the Panthers tied the score 27-27 heading into the fourth quarter. 

In the final period, Orange continued its momentum, as Jada Reed sank a 3-pointer to give the Panthers a 30-28 lead. After Evelyn George made a free throw for a 31-28 Panthers advantage, Atkins buried a clutch 3-pointer for a 34-28 Panthers lead. Rhiley Crabtree followed with a basket, and suddenly the Panthers were pulling away, leading 36-38. The Red Wolves called a timeout with just over three minutes remaining in an effort to regroup, and Ware converted a basket to pull the Red Wolves within 36-30. 

But then Atkins and Crabtree came through yet another, as Atkins buried yet another 3-pointer, and Crabtree scored again for a 41-30 Panthers lead. Reed scored again with just over a minute remaining, but Evelyn George scored a key bucket for Orange to keep the Red Wolves at bay. The Panthers held off CRHS at the free throw line, and claimed a 46-37 victory. The win improved Orange to 11-10 overall and 4-5 in Central Conference play, while the Red Wolves slipped to 3-14 overall and 2-7 in league games. 

Despite the loss, however, it was another sign of Cedar Ridge’s significant improvement in women’s basketball, and the promise of a brighter future on the hardwood for the Red Wolves. 

Atkins led the Panthers with 15 points, including five 3-pointers, while George added 13 points and 18 rebounds for a double-double. Reed added nine points, while Erin Jordan-Cornell contributed seven points and seven rebounds. Orange forced nine steals and committed 15 turnovers in the win. 

In the men’s game, the Panthers started out with an all-senior lineup. Cedar Ridge hung close early on, leading 6-5 in the opening minutes on a couple of 3-pointers. But Caleb Barreto buried a 3-pointer to give Orange an 8-6 lead with just under three minutes left in the opening period, and the Panthers took a 13-10 lead into the second quarter. 

In the second quarter, the Panthers went with their usual lineup, including Coleman Cloer, Xandrell Pennix, Kai Wade, Mason Robinson, and Ryan Honeycutt. Cedar Ridge continued to stay close throughout much of the second period, keeping the score tied at 20-20 before Honeycutt scored to re-gave the Panthers the lead, 22-20. The Panthers followed with excellent ball movement, as Honeycutt made a great pass to Robinson for a slam dunk and a 24-20 Panthers lead with four minutes left before halftime. 

Orange went on a 13-0 run as halftime approached, with Wade giving the Panthers a 32-20 advantage with just over two minutes remaining in the half, and a free throw making the count 33-20 before the Red Wolves finally snapped the streak. The Panthers led 38-26 at halftime. 

The second half was all Orange, as the Panthers used their superior size and athleticism to take command. Cloer buried an improbable 35-foot 3-pointer for a 45-27 Orange lead around the 3:00 mark of the third quarter, but Cedar Ridge got back-to-back buckets to briefly pull within 45-31. Cloer electrified the crowd inside the CRHS gymnasium with a one-handed slam dunk, but then received a technical foul after taunting the Red Wolves. The Panthers led 49-32 heading into the fourth quarter. 

In the final period, Orange found its shooting touch and ran away from Cedar Ridge, outscoring the home team 23-8 over the final eight minutes. With just over two minutes left, and holding a commanding lead, Britt emptied his bench, allowing his senior starters to finish out a 72-44 win. 

The victory over the Red Wolves gave the Panthers a sweep for the week, increased their winning streak to four straight games, and improved their overall mark to 15-6 and 7-2 in league contests. Orange has assured itself of a winning season, and is increasingly more likely to reach the NCHSAA 3A state playoffs for the first time since the 2016-17 season. Orange also maintained its stranglehold on third place in the Central Conference standings. 

Cloer led the Panthers with 16 points, while Wade added 11 points. Barreto added a career-high 10 points for Orange as one of the senior starters for OHS. Honeycutt added eight points, while another senior, Darius Corbett, added seven points. Colton Taylor led all scorers for Cedar Ridge with 22 points. Jonathan Wingate added nine points for CRHS in the loss. 

The Panthers men’s team continued their winning ways on the evening of Tuesday, January 24, as the Panthers hosted Central Conference rival Williams and picked up a solid 66-59 victory. OHS jumped out to an early 10-2 lead in the opening minutes and never looked back.

Sophomore Xandrell Pennix helped lift Orange into the lead in the early going against Williams with a dramatic 4-point play, which helped the Panthers break out to its early eight-point margin. Teammate Caleb Barreto followed with two 3-pointers later in the opening period for an 18-9 Panthers edge, which was cut to 18-12 heading into the second quarter. 

Orange pulled away from the Bulldogs in the second quarter with eight of the first 11 points of the period, including multiple baskets by freshman standout Coleman Cloer. The Panthers kept pushing for a 14-5 run as halftime closed in on a score by junior Ryan Honeycutt. 

Leading 38-25 at halftime, the Panthers had to hang on in the second half, as the Bulldogs attempted to make a comeback. Williams trimmed Orange’s lead to 45-35 heading into the fourth quarter, but the Panthers kept making shots to maintain their double-digit advantage. 

Kai Wade opened the scoring for OHS in the fourth quarter with a bucket to make the score 57-45, and after Williams converted a basket, Honeycutt scored in the post, and Pennix connected on another 3-pointer for a 62-49 Panthers lead. 

The Bulldogs briefly got back within 10 points at 62-52, but Malachi Poole helped the Panthers stay in charge with a basket midway through the final period. The Bulldogs got within eight in the final two minutes, but Cloer came through with a basket for the Panthers to finish off the victory. The win practically guaranteed Orange’s first winning season since 2016-17, as well as improved the Panthers’ chances of reaching the state playoffs for the first time in six years. 

Cloer led the Panthers with 18 points in the triumph over Williams, while Wade contributed 14 points. Pennix added nine points for OHS in the win. 

Unfortunately for the OHS women’s team, they didn’t have as much luck against the Bulldogs, as B.J. Condron’s squad suffered a 50-34 setback to the visitors from Burlington. 

The game was relatively close early on, with Williams taking a 12-9 lead into the second quarter, but the Panthers lost their shooting touch in the second period. As Orange scored just five minutes in an eight-minute span, the Bulldogs extended their lead to 22-14 at halftime on a 3-pointer by Kamryn Russell in the closing seconds of the final half. Standout Erin Jordan-Cornell, an All-Central Conference candidate and one of the most consistent players all season for the Panthers, got into early foul trouble and finished the game with a season-low six points. 

Orange tried to rally in the third quarter - trimming the Williams lead to 33-27 heading into the fourth quarter, but the Bulldogs put the Panthers away by outscoring the home team by ten points in the final period. Orange was held to just 23 percent shooting from the floor and had no players in double figures in the 16-point loss. 

Senior Katelyn Van Mater led Orange with eight points in the loss, while fellow twelfth graders Jordan-Cornell and Nikayla Whitted each had six points. OHS was just 4-of-22 from 3-point range in the game and committed 20 turnovers, which helped offset a 29-17 Panthers rebounding advantage over the Bulldogs. Sophomore Evelyn George led Orange on the glass with eight rebounds, while Jordan-Cornell contributed seven boards. 

Cedar Ridge traveled to Pittsboro on January 24 and came away with a pair of losses to Northwood, which holds first place in the Central Conference in both men’s and women’s play. The CRHS women’s squad suffered a 58-34 loss to the defending NCHSAA 3A state champions, while the Red Wolves men’s squad were crushed 70-17 by the Chargers, who feature UNC-bound junior standout Drake Powell. 

Orange was scheduled to host Person County Tuesday night and travel to Northwood Friday night, while Cedar Ridge was set to travel to Eastern Alamance Tuesday night and host Western Alamance for Senior Night on Friday. The Panthers will host Eastern Alamance on Friday, February 10 for Senior Night inside the OHS gymnasium.