Exciting week of high school hoops

BY DON BEANE, News + Record Staff
Posted 3/8/19

I had planned on writing a column on the Zion Williamson situation this week, but after an action-packed weekend of area high school hoops which saw our local teams do the best they have in years, I …

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Exciting week of high school hoops

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I had planned on writing a column on the Zion Williamson situation this week, but after an action-packed weekend of area high school hoops which saw our local teams do the best they have in years, I changed my mind.

So instead, it will be a column with a little bit of this, and a little bit of that.

The Chatham Central girls got the lead after essentially winning a sectional in the east bracket with three victories in five days. The Bears, seeded 4th, rolled by all three opponents in dominating fashion to move to 22-3 on the season. Of course, last week I questioned Washington County getting the No. 3 seed, and to no surprise, they were beaten on Saturday night, more than justifying my, and many others’, argument.

But enough of that, let’s focus on this Lady Bear team, and it is a team in every sense of the word. In my opinion, it’s the best “team” since the 2000 squad, which won the state title. Now I’m not saying this year’s group would beat those with Becca Bolton, Jessica Curtis and the likes which had the misfortune of running into some of the best teams ever in the 1A ranks in Thomasville and Bishop McGuinness, but overall as a “team,” the 2018-2019 Chatham Central girls are something special.

The 1999 Chatham Central girl’s 1A state champion squad garners all the attention in Bear Creek, and for good reason, with Tanesha McClain, Chrissy Marsh, Randi Jo Kivett, Kathryn Caudle and the likes, they simply crushed any and everyone in their way. The following season, it was a total “team” effort by the Lady Bears to win a consecutive state crown in 2000, to the surprise of many. To this day, that Chatham Central girl’s squad executed about as well as any I’ve ever seen.

Fast forward to 2018-2019, and this Chatham Central squad brings back memories of almost two decades ago. No, there is no Kathryn Caudle, who is now an assistant coach for Bears head coach Lynda Burke, or Randi Jo Kivett. Caudle could drop 30 on you on any given night down in the paint while pulling down 20 boards, and Kivett might add a stat line of 22 points, 11 rebounds, seven steals and eight assists. Those two were unquestionably the central figures of that 2000 title team.

In comparison, this year’s CC squad is more guard oriented with Taylor Hughes and Mary Grace Murchison leading the way, while Abby and Maddy Elkins give the Bears some serious scoring and rebounding inside. Off the bench, Cami Hughes, Lauren Collins, Lauren Oldham and Eliana Phillips lead a cast of Central players that can also produce on any given night.

The group is fun to watch, and really can score every way conceivable, a lot due to quick and unselfish passes that often lead to easy baskets for teammates. And just as important, they play defense, game in and game out.

Now, the long trip to top-seeded Pamlico in the East Regional semifinals will a tough task, but don’t bet against this group of Lady Bears in giving the Hurricanes all they want and then some, and even pulling out the win.

Over on the boy’s side, what a fun ride it was. Both the Northwood and Chatham Central boys advanced into the 3rd round on Saturday night before falling to Northern Nash and Washington County respectively. Coach Matthew Brown of Northwood and Robert Burke of Chatham Central deserve a lot of credit for getting their teams ready to play at tourney time.

Coach Jason Messier did a great job at Chatham Charter, as well, as his club finished 27-5 overall with a loss way up in the Smoky Mountains to Hayesville.

Now, a lot of people complain about the travel, but for me, I think it’s great. These kids were able to travel to places that some may have never been before, with the exception of the opening round game for Northwood, which was at Southern Durham.

It sure beats 10 years ago when the playoffs in basketball and football were basically the Yadkin Valley Conference eliminating each other in the opening three rounds.

You can bet for sure that 30 years from now the Chatham Central boys’ team will be talking about traveling all the way to Ocracoke High School at the Outer Banks, having to take a ferry to get on and off the island, pulling the huge upset, spending two nights, and heading to Pamlico to pull an even bigger upset win in the second round — all before returning home.

And Northwood, beating a Southern Durham team that the Chargers had lost to three times already this season, then upsetting East Wake, and almost taking down Northern Nash on Saturday. What an effort by this Northwood bunch.

Chatham Charter, well, Coach Messier, all I will say is that in over three decades of playing or covering high school sports in North Carolina, you quickly learn this one constant in playing teams from Maiden High School westward to the Smoky Mountains: when you step off the bus in basketball, you are 10 points down before the whistle blows, and in football, it rises to two touchdowns. So keep your head up!


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