Fighting to stay alive for the Mid-Carolina Conference regular season title, the Chatham Central boys basketball team pulled off one of the upsets of the season Friday night by defeating Seaforth, 74-68.
The Bears were led by a career-high 33 points from senior Brandon Toomer, who knocked down 12-of-19 shots, including seven-of-13 three-pointers. Joining Toomer with at least 10 points were junior Wesley Clewis (21) and sophomore Reid Albright (10). The win improved Central to 11-6 overall and 5-3 in league play.
“It felt great,” said Bears head coach Robert Burke. “The guys came out and had a really strong offensive night. And the difference, I thought, was that we played a lot better defense than the last time we played them.”
In their first matchup with the Hawks (13-6, 8-1 MCC) on Jan. 3, the Bears lost 69-56. Burke admitted his team put too much of an emphasis on shutting down Seaforth junior Jarin Stevenson, who still managed 26 points, 17 rebounds and five assists, in that game. This time around, he told his players that the junior was likely going to “get his” no matter how they played him, and to instead focus on shutting down the Hawks’ other players.
The gameplan worked to perfection, as Seaforth players outside of Stevenson — who scored 39 points on 15-of-18 shooting to go with 14 rebounds — combined to shoot just 11-of-32 (34.4%) from the field. The Bears also totaled 13 steals while turning the ball over just six times themselves.
Outside of Tuesday’s game against Cummings, which occurred after press time, Central has three more games left in the regular season. The Bears already have a better record this winter than they did in 2021-22 (9-12), and look more and more dangerous every day.
Burke, for his part, has plenty of postseason experience. Prior to the 2021-22 season, Central has won at least one playoff game in each of the previous four seasons with Burke as head coach. As far as this year is concerned, Burke believes his team is starting to find its stride.
“I think they’re coming together,” he said. “For the most part, we have a young team. I think they’re finally buying in, and understanding that we need to play both offense and defense ... We’re in a good place right now. We’re getting hot at the right time.”
A big part of Central’s success this season has been the play of Albright, who leads the team in points (18.9), rebounds (9.9), assists (4.6) and steals (2.5) per game as a sophomore. A 6-foot-1, 175-pound guard, Albright is shooting 54.2% from the field and 36.4% from 3-point range this season. He started his season with at least 20 points in four of his first five games, and he recently hit a season high with 33 points in a 96-93 loss to Eastern Randolph on Jan. 25.
“He’s probably going to be one of the best shooters that’s come out of Central by the time he leaves here,” Burke said of Albright. “Last year as a freshman, I think he just wasn’t quite in his element, and he didn’t totally understand his role, as a lot of young guys don’t. But he’s the catalyst of the team this year. I’m glad he’s a sophomore. I’ll have him for two more years.”
Chatham Charter stays undefeated
Playing on the road Thursday night at Clover Garden, the Chatham Charter boys basketball tram kept its undefeated record intact with an 84-24 victory over the Grizzlies. Ahead of this Tuesday’s game against Southern Wake Academy, which happened after press time, the Knights were 24-0 overall and 6-0 in conference play.
Sporting the best record of any Chatham County team this winter, Chatham Charter have been getting it done on both ends of the floor. The Knights are averaging 73.8 points per game — the top mark in the county — and are shooting 53.5% from the field and 31.4% from 3-point range. Defensively, the Knights are allowing their opponents just 30.2 points per game this season.
Leading the way statistically for Chatham Charter this season has been senior Adam Harvey, who is averaging a team-high 17.2 points per game to go with 3.8 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 3.0 steals. Sophomore Brennen Oldham (12.7) and senior Aamir Mapp (10.5) are also averaging double-digit points, while sophomore Beau Harvey is averaging 8.9 points, 5.1 assists and 4.5 steals per game.
The Knights hope to once again play as late into the postseason as possible. Last winter, Chatham Charter lost just one game all season before falling to Hayesville, 54-43, in the 1A state championship game. This year’s Knights are ranked as the No. 4 team in the 1A East region by MaxPreps, behind Bertie, Washington County and Wilson Prep.
Sports Editor Jeremy Vernon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @jbo_vernon.
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