Webb boys, Southern girls set for tourney titles
The matchups may look familiar, but the teams playing in Friday's 3-A Carolina Conference Tournament finals have taken different paths to the championship game than a season ago.
For the second consecutive year, J.F. Webb and Chapel Hill will meet for the boys final and Southern Vance and Chapel Hill will meet in the girls championship. Again, the Chapel Hill boys’ status as the top seed means the Tigers host both the boys and girls games.
In 2012, Chapel Hill entered the final unbeaten, facing upstart Webb, which drew the two seed over Cardinal Gibbons. The Warriors upset star player Denzel Ingram and the Tigers in an intense 76-69 battle.
Webb entered this season as the prohibitive favorite in the league behind North Carolina recruit Isaiah Hicks. But Chapel Hill handed the Warriors their first and only conference loss Feb. 8 and the Tigers ultimately earned a share of first place, drawing the top seed last week.
The winner of Friday's game will earn a No. 1 seed for next week’s state playoffs.
Chapel Hill defeated No. 4 Orange Wednesday and Webb used a Bryan Smith jumper in the closing seconds to knock off No. 3 Cardinal Gibbons, setting up another chapter in a growing rivalry.
“We shouldn’t have to say much,” Webb coach Leo Brunelli said. “If I have to say anything to get them fired up about Chapel Hill — this group, I won’t. They’ll come in business as usual. I expect (Thursday) to be our best practice of the season.”
When Webb lost at Chapel Hill this season, the Warriors were playing their fifth straight conference road game. Webb will have its legs this time.
“It was just a tough stretch,” said Brunelli. “The key right now is you have to be playing your best. And I think we’re on our way.”
Chapel Hill played at a deliberate pace in the first regular season matchup, falling 56-35 in Oxford. The Tigers took the second game, 55-52.
“We’ve got some good coaches in the conference that are doing a great job,” said Brunelli. “They’re trying to do anything for them to win. We’re trying to do everything for us to win. But I do enjoy the chess matches. I enjoy the strategy.”
After the Southern girls’ 80-67 win over No. 2 Cardinal Gibbons Wednesday, coach Amy Simpson wasn’t sure exactly what the strategy would be against a Chapel Hill team that has been dominant this season.
A season ago, Chapel Hill tied with Cardinal Gibbons for the top spot in the conference, drew the top seed and defeated the Raiders handily in the title game. This season, the Tigers were perfect in league play with only one non-conference loss on their schedule.
The closest a conference team came to Chapel Hill this season was Gibbons’ 48-36 loss. Every other Tiger win was by at least 19 points.
“They’re a very experienced team,” said Simpson. “They do have certain aspects that can be considered weaknesses.”
Southern lost its matches with the Tigers by 19 and 20 points. But the Raiders also lost both of their regular season games with Gibbons before Wednesday’s upset.
Simpson said Friday's game will be a good barometer and would go a long way in boosting her team’s confidence for the upcoming state playoffs.
Carolina Conference Tournament finals
Friday at Chapel Hill High School
Boys: No. 2 J.F. Webb (21-4) vs No. 1 Chapel Hill (21-4), 8 p.m.
Girls: No. 3 Southern Vance (20-5) vs No. 1 Chapel Hill (24-1), 6 p.m.
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