‘It was electric’: Knights down Raptors in 1-point thriller to claim 2021 Winter Slam title

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SILER CITY — Playing against Chatham Charter is a bit like Christmas shopping for the guy who has everything.

It takes creativity, talent and a complete knowledge of your subject to pull it off.

The Knights’ plethora of scoring options — ranging from their constantly improving young bucks to their solid, consistent veterans — make them a dangerous team to compete against, necessitating a plan to neutralize them in order to have a shot at victory.

In the 5th annual Chatham Charter Winter Slam, held Dec. 20-22, the Knights’ opponents learned that the hard way as Chatham Charter took the crown on its home court thanks to an undefeated run in the four-team, round-robin tournament.

The Knights turned in a 3-0 record, starting with a 62-39 victory over the Neuse Charter Cougars, followed by a 83-51 thumping of the Cornerstone Charter Cardinals and capping it off with a one-point win, 60-59, over the Research Triangle Raptors last Wednesday in the de facto championship game.

The Knights’ head coach, Jason Messier, credits most of that success to the team’s depth.

“How do you stop a team that has a bunch of guys who can contribute at a high level?” Messier asked. “Those types of teams are really tough to stop.”

Chatham Charter junior Adam Harvey (20) goes up for a layup in the Knights' 60-59 victory over Research Triangle in the championship game of the 2021 Chatham Charter Winter Slam last Wednesday. Harvey was the team's leading scorer in the tournament with 46 points over 3 games. / Staff photo by Simon Barbre

This tournament was an excellent showcase for the Knights’ talent from top to bottom.

Junior forward Aamir Mapp played a phenomenal tournament, leading the team in scoring two out of three contests, including a 20-point performance — nearly one-third of the team’s points — in the championship game against the Raptors.

Mapp was joined by fellow junior Adam Harvey, who proved his own versatility during the Knights’ three-game stretch with two double-doubles over three categories, one against the Cougars in the opener (11 points, 11 assists) and the other versus the Raptors in the championship (19 points, 10 rebounds).

“Our veterans are constantly there, as well,” Messier said. “In that championship game, Aamir had 20 (points) and Adam had 19 (points), so we continue to have our leaders show up.”

But the beauty of having so many options comes when one of your best players has a tough night. It just allows others to step up in their place and shine.

Against the Cardinals, Mapp had just four points on 33% shooting from the field. He was virtually nonexistent when it came to scoring the ball.

Yet, his lack of offense gave way to Adam Harvey (16 points) and his brother, freshman Beau Harvey (21 points), having stellar performances on the offensive end and leading the Knights to the 32-point win.

Beau Harvey is one-half of the freshman duo that’s taking the team by storm.

Despite his brother leading the team in total points (46) and assists (19) in the tournament, Beau was named the 2021 Winter Slam Most Outstanding Player for his ability to successfully run the Knights’ high-scoring offense throughout all three games.

“People will look at his stats for that last game and say, ‘Well, he only had 6 points,’ but all day long, he was just handling that trap,” Messier said. “He scored early when he needed to, but then he just facilitated the offense. We ran a little 1-4 high and put Adam up on the elbow spot and he was just constantly looking to get him the ball, just handling the trap defense.”

Entering last Wednesday, the Knights and Raptors both held on to a 2-0 tournament record, setting up a winner-takes-all finale on the tournament’s final day.

Messier likened the title game to a playoff atmosphere, citing the number of fans from both schools which made it out to the game — despite being on their respective winter breaks — that brought the intensity.

“You could feel the excitement in the air, it was just a big game,” Messier said. “It was electric.”

Chatham Charter junior Aamir Mapp (with ball) shoots a close jumper in the Knights' 60-59 win over Research Triangle in the championship game of the 2021 Chatham Charter Winter Slam last Wednesday. Mapp led the team in scoring in 2 of their 3 games in the tournament. / Staff photo by Simon Barbre

With the Knights having already seen the Raptors once this season — Chatham Charter won, 58-45 — and having been conference mates up until this year, they knew what to expect.

Research Triangle is known for its half-court 1-3-1 trap defense, using its length and athleticism to make it tough for teams to set up their offenses comfortably.

But even with a freshman running their offense against a tenacious defense, the Knights still managed to shoot better from the field (48%) than in its previous two games and turned the ball over 15 times, on par with their numbers against Cornerstone (14 turnovers) and Neuse Charter (19).

The Knights held onto a six-point advantage at halftime, 28-22, but by the end of the third period, the Raptors had managed to cut that deficit down to just a single point.

In the end, though, Chatham Charter’s youth prevailed, ekeing out the one-point victory thanks, in part, to a three-point play by sophomore Aiden Allred that sealed the game late.

“They were an experienced team; within their starting lineup, they start four seniors … who are all battle-tested,” Messier said. “But we were ready for that playoff atmosphere. My guys loved it. They soaked it up. And there were moments where we did show our inexperience and our youth, but they executed down the stretch to pull out that victory.”

Part of the Chargers’ youth movement is led by freshman big man Brennen Oldham, who arguably had one of the most impressive performances in the tournament when he came close to posting a non-traditional triple-double in the championship (8 points, 10 rebounds, 7 blocks).

He was just 2 points and 3 blocks away.

“Seven blocks, that’s on another level, especially against a team as athletic as Research,” Messier said with a awe-inspired chuckle. “He was just in that right place, playing aggressive, smart defense.”

It’s clear that the future of the Knights’ program is in good hands.

“Having freshmen at those two key positions, your center and your point guard, that’s the thing,” Messier said. “For those two young men to continue to grow in such big games is huge because playing in big situations is only going to benefit them when we get into the conference tournament or when we get to the state playoffs.”

At about the season’s midpoint, the Knights have a strong 13-1 record, with their one loss coming by just one point to Uwharrie Charter on Dec. 3.

But after winning their first piece of hardware of the season, Messier seems to have hope that it might not be his team’s last.

“Right now, we’ve got three guys averaging double-digits and we’ve got Oldham averaging 9.3 (points per game), so there are probably a lot of coaches looking at our stats on MaxPreps like, ‘How do we stop this team?’” Messier said. “We’re excited for the rest of the season. We’re excited to see where we can go.”

Chatham Charter takes the court again on Jan. 4, where it’ll face Research Triangle at home for the third installment of this classic rivalry.

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

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