Lady Vipers

Vance County Vipers girls basketball player Jakhiyah Evans (5) gets knocked down by a Chapel Hill player at midcourt during her team’s 54-22 season-opening loss on Tuesday evening.

HENDERSON — After enduring a protracted offseason marred by COVID-19 and turnover, the Vance County girls basketball team returned to their home court Tuesday evening for a season-opening matchup with Chapel Hill.

The outcome was not what new head coach Sheila Gill-Hargrove had envisioned, as numerous errors on both ends of the floor enabled Chapel Hill to take control of the game and pull away with a 54-22 victory.

“We’ve got a lot to learn,” Gill-Hargrove said. “We have to come together as a team pretty much. They’re all over the place and they need to settle in. We’re also a very small team, but everything will come to us eventually.”

Although standout scorer Nashiya Branch was among those who graduated from Vance County during the summer, Gill-Hargrove said that she felt comfortable having seniors Yumyah Hargrove and Tymiah Wimbush continue their roles as leaders on and off the court, but is also expecting freshman Sarah Baldwin to have a prominent role in her first year.

Hargrove, Wimbush, Baldwin and the rest of the roster struggled to generate much offense for Vance County during the first quarter of Tuesday’s matchup, but they managed to do just enough defensively to hold an 8-7 advantage after eight minutes of play.

As Vance County’s issues on offense continued to mount, they failed to sustain their efficiency on defense, as Chapel Hill began to find more open lanes to the basket and entered the intermission up 22-15.

Chapel Hill kept dominating Vance County throughout the second half by dominating the paint and forcing Vance County to commit several turnovers and travels. Vance County would go scoreless through the fourth quarter until Wimbush made a free-throw with just over three minutes remaining.

Gill-Hargrove said that she did not expect everything to go perfectly for Vance County in their first game after the eventful offseason, but she is optimistic that the issues will be ironed out as she and her players spend more time together in practice.

“I think we did well running the plays,” Gill-Hargrove said. “We’ve only been together for a short period of time, but they boxed out well for being a small team, but we have to work on moving the ball and the offense has to be better.”

Vance County will now wait patiently to take part in their matchup, as scheduled games with Orange and Northern Durham on Friday and Tuesday were postponed due to COVID-19-related issues within those programs.