‘A big-time moment’: Knights’ Harvey brothers combine for 33 points in rivalry win

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SILER CITY — If you arrived at Chatham Charter’s gym even a minute after tip-off last Friday, you would’ve been hard-pressed to find a spot to watch the action comfortably.

The stands were filled to the brim as the Knights’ men’s basketball team earned a 26-point win over the Chatham Central Bears, 61-35, in one of the latest installments of Chatham’s in-county rivalries.

And if there were any questions about whether or not the Knights and Bears were true rivals, look no further than Friday to settle the debate.

The Knights may have earned a double-digit win once the final buzzer sounded, but it was far from comfortable, with Chatham Charter having to fight and claw — and press — its way to a large first-half run that buried the Bears in a hole too deep to escape.

“Central’s well-coached,” Knights Head Coach Jason Messier said following the win. “They’re scrappy, they get after it. Our size advantage was something that bothered them a little bit, but it was a big win for us.”

Knights junior Adam Harvey, last year’s Central Tar Heel 1A Conference Player of the Year, had himself a night against the Bears, scoring 21 points (on 70% shooting) to go along with 8 rebounds, 1 assist, 3 steals and 2 blocks as he carved the Bears up inside the paint.

Harvey was one of three Knights that scored in double figures — along with junior Aamir Mapp (13 points) and freshman Beau Harvey (12 points) — but was undoubtedly the most efficient, missing just three shots on the night and thriving on both ends of the floor.

“Obviously, Adam stepped up and had a big game tonight,” Messier said. “It was a big-time moment against a county rival.”

“The biggest thing was No. 20 (Harvey),” Bears Head Coach Robert Burke said after the loss. “We were so concentrated on shutting No. 20 down. I don’t think their big man (freshman Brennan Oldham) did that much damage to us, but it was the play off of No. 20 that gave us the damage. But we’re going to figure something out for the next game for him.”

From the opening tip, it was obvious this game would be a battle.

Early in the first quarter, Chatham Central senior Nick Jourdan (13 points, Bears’ leading scorer) stole the ball — one of 6 steals on the night for the Bears — fought his way through contact, drew the foul and got his layup to fall, igniting Central’s portion of the crowd.

A layup from Mapp and a floater from Beau Harvey gave the Knights a 4-point lead and quieted the travelers from Bear Creek, but the Bears responded with a 7-0 run that included Jourdan draining a 3-pointer to steal the lead right back, 11-8.

But as the old cliche goes, basketball is a game of runs. And it was the Knights’ turn to have the hot hand.

Mapp scored in the paint to put the Knights behind by two, 11-10, before Beau Harvey got a steal and hit a floater on the opposite end to take a 12-11 lead.

A couple of possessions later, the Harvey brothers — first Beau, then Adam — hit a pair of 3-pointers to capture their biggest lead of the night, 18-11.

After a technical foul on Central, Adam Harvey downed two free throws, then the Knights got the ball back, where Mapp splashed a corner 3-pointer just before the first-quarter buzzer to give the Knights a 23-11 lead after the opening period.

Chatham Charter’s three 3-pointers in the final three minutes of the first period were the only shots they’d hit from behind the arc for the rest of the night. But they couldn’t have come at a better time.

The Knights’ 20-0 run extended into the second quarter, when Bears freshman Aiden Johnson hit a free throw to snap the scoreless run with 5:37 to play in the half.

By then, Chatham Charter had amassed a 28-12 lead and was fully in control.

“They jumped out in the second quarter and got that big lead and they really didn’t extend that much on it,” Burke said. “So, we played better (after the run).”

The Knights focused the rest of their efforts on gaining the upper hand in the paint and effectively shutting the Bears down inside, which has been one of the strengths of their team up to this point.

Central scored just 14 points in the paint — compared to Chatham Charter’s 30 — as the Knights created a logjam for the Bears on offense, clogging up the middle and trapping ballhandlers, making it difficult for them to spread the things out, which led to plenty of turnovers and missed shots.

“They’ve got a great defense … they were in a man (defense) but we were making it look like a zone,” Burke said. “Against a good defensive team, you can’t sit there and catch the ball and check, you’ve got to know where that next pass was going and we’re just not there yet.”

Down by 18 at the break, 38-20, the Bears came out of the locker room with a plan to fix their offensive woes. They started to spread the floor, make passes along the perimeter and found a couple of open shooters behind the arc, leading to a couple of early 3-pointers by Reid Albright and Matthew Smith, respectively, to try and get them back into the game.

But the Knights tightened up and allowed just 4 points for the rest of the quarter, nursing a 55-30 advantage at the start of the fourth period.

“We were able to put our press on at the right time, get some things going and get into a little 1-3-1 (zone),” Messier said. “We came out after halftime and they hit a couple of big threes and so we came back out of it and went back to grinding them in that half-court man (defense).”

While the Knights polished things off with a strong fourth quarter to clinch the 61-35 win, it was clear this was a rivalry game.

The passion oozed off of both the fans in the stands — including those looking atop the elevated wall behind the two benches — and the players, with hard fouls, lots of contact and expressed emotion being the norm throughout the contest.

Those emotions sometimes boiled over, as was the case late in the third quarter, when Mapp scored a bucket in the paint and let out a fiery yell in celebration, earning him a technical foul.

But when you’re playing in a rivalry game packed with intensity, sometimes you just have to let it out.

“If you look back at our games (against Central) throughout the years, there have been overtime games, triple-overtime games, we’ve had those,” Messier said. “I always liken it to the UNC-Duke rivalry in that it doesn’t matter what the other team has, we’re going to bring it, they’re going to bring it and we’re going to play at a high level. I’m glad that the fans got to see that.”

The Knights, now 9-1 on the year with their lone blemish coming in a one-point overtime loss to Uwharrie Charter on Dec. 3, will face Chatham Central (1-3) in their next game on Friday, Dec. 17.

That’s back-to-back games against their in-county rival, while the Bears faced Graham (1-2) in between on Tuesday, Dec. 14 (a game which ended after press time of this week’s edition).

“We talked about how we want our boys to celebrate the win this weekend, then we get back after it Monday,” Messier said. “They’re well-coached and they’re going to come back with a game plan to come at us in a different way, so we’ve got to be ready for that. It’s always hard to beat a team twice, especially a county rival.”

Reporter Victor Hensley can be reached at vhensley@chathamnr.com or on Twitter at @Frezeal33.

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