The storybook ending for the Chatham Charter boys basketball team took an unfortunate turn in Hickory Saturday afternoon in the NCHSAA 1A Western Finals versus perennial power Winston Salem Prep at Tarlton Arena at Catawba Community College.
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HICKORY — The storybook ending for the Chatham Charter boys basketball team took an unfortunate turn in Hickory Saturday afternoon in the NCHSAA 1A Western Finals versus perennial power Winston Salem Prep at Tarlton Arena at Catawba Community College.
Leading 54-52 with 4:59 left in the contest, Chatham Charter couldn’t close Winston Salem Prep out as the Phoenix grabbed a 59-57 lead with just under two minutes remaining before outscoring the Knights 6-3 the rest of the way to advance to the 1A State Championship game with a 65-60 triumph.
Winston Salem Prep will take a 22-8 record in its quest for its sixth state title in its 15th season as a program when the Phoenix take on Henderson Collegiate (26-10) at 2:35 pm on Saturday, March 14 at Reynolds Coliseum on the campus of North Carolina State University in Raleigh.
Chatham Charter, meanwhile, shattered virtually every school record this season in finishing 31-2 in just its sixth season as a program.
Coach Jason Messier took time to reflect on his team and the journey of this season after the heartbreaking loss.
“I was extremely proud of our effort team first attitude, we came ready to play and left everything on the court, making WSP earn the win,” said Messier. “This team has always had a ‘Refuse to Lose’ attitude, which was shown in the West Regional Finals. We knew we would be in a dogfight against a perennial powerhouse in Winston Salem Prep, but our guys battled and were a few plays away from competing for a state championship.”
The contest entered the fourth period tied at 48-all and that’s when Stephen Minor stepped up big time for Winston Salem Prep, canning a trey, a pair of driving hoops and 3-of-4 free throws for 10 of his 20 points in the contest. Troy Mills, who led all scorers with 30 points, added five points in the final eight minutes including 3-of-4 shooting from the charity stripe in the closing minute to help ice the win for the Phoenix.
Jordan Hamilton had seven points including three baskets for the Knights in the final period while Trevor Golden added five more. It was all Chatham Charter could muster, however, as the locals were outscored 17-12 in the decisive frame.
Winston Salem Prep grabbed a 15-10 advantage after one quarter of play behind 10 points from Mills who sank a pair of treys while Minor added five more points including another three-pointer. Hamilton and Golden had three points each for Chatham Charter in the opening stanza.
In the second, Chatham Charter heated up offensively and used seven points from Hamilton, a trey and five points from Golden, and a three-pointer from Ryan White to win the eight minute span 17-14 to pull within 29-27 at the intermission. Mills had seven points including a trey in the second for Winston Salem Prep and Minor added five more including a three-pointer.
The Knights clicked on all cylinders in the third offensively and erupted for 21 points behind eight from Hamilton, including a trey which got the purple and white Knights crowd into a frenzy, seven more from Golden who also canned a left-handed jumper from behind the arc, and four points from White. The Phoenix answered with 19, however, to keep the game tied at Mills pumped in eight, including a long range trey, Anthony Sellars and Jermaine Myers four each, and Tim Davis three.
Winston Salem Prep would be too strong down the stretch, however, pulling away in the waning moments for the victory and another 1A West Regional crown.
Hamilton closed the contest with 23 points, 10 rebounds, and was 10-of-12 from the foul line while Golden added 22 points, White seven, Connor Murphy four, and Cole Milholen and Amir Mapp two apiece.
Messier had a lot to say about his seniors, including Hamilton, Milholen, Murphy, White and Dashon Sutton.
“A coach could not ask for a better group of seniors to lead his team. They are extremely unselfish and have put the team first all year,” Messier said. “Their will to win and competitiveness was contagious among the rest of our players and they put a lot of work in during the offseason and bought in to what it would take for this team to be successful. They are the most resilient team that I have coached, which allowed them to play even the toughest of games.”
Hamilton closed as the school’s all-time leader in points (1,628) and rebounds (865) while Murphy finished with 1,083 points.
“Jordan, Connor, Cole, Ryan set the tone the entire season with their hustle defensively and willingness to play defense and to hit the boards,” Messier said. “That set the tone for the entire team, and even in the games we weren’t as sharp offensively, we won games with defense. It is a special group and a special team.”