BURLINGTON — Whenever Chatham Central and Chatham Charter meet on the hardwood, fans anticipate seeing a full-fledged start-to-finish battle, and Wednesday night’s Central Tar Heel 1A Conference …
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BURLINGTON — Whenever Chatham Central and Chatham Charter meet on the hardwood, fans anticipate seeing a full-fledged start-to-finish battle, and Wednesday night’s Central Tar Heel 1A Conference tournament semifinal match-up between the two county rivals at Clover Garden High School served to fulfill their expectations once again.
A.J. Alston’s fourth three-pointer of the evening with 2:41 remaining to play gave the Knights the lead for good and Chatham Charter managed to hold off the Bears in the closing seconds to escape with a 52-50 victory.
Defeating Chatham Central for the second time in three meetings this season, the second-seeded Knights improved to 26-3 and advance to play top-seed and regular-season league champion Research Triangle (22-3) in Friday night’s title game, while third-seeded Chatham Central fell to 13-9 for the year and now awaits to see who it will face in the upcoming state playoffs.
Alston topped Chatham Charter with a dozen points while Jordan Hamilton finished with 11 points and a game-high eight rebounds.
The Bears’ Michael Moore led all scorers with 15 points while Riley Lagenor registered 10 points off the bench.
“I thought this was a good team win,” Knights’ coach Jason Messier said following the outcome.
“A.J. hit some huge baskets for us this evening while the defense dug down deep to get loose balls when we needed them, and we made just enough plays down the stretch to pull out a victory.”
Chatham Central coach Robert Burke commented he felt his team played hard but had difficulty getting into its offense with starting guard Jamieon Degraffenreaidt not on the court.
“I thought we did a good job keeping the ball away from Hamilton and (Connor) Murphy but we were so concerned about them we left a couple of their players open on the wings and they managed to burn us.”
“Missing Jamieon on the floor was huge as we couldn’t get rolling in our set plays, and in the end we just came up a little short.”
The lead alternated back and forth seven times in the initial period before Alston’s trey from the right corner with 1:32 to go in the stanza broke a 9-9 standoff and gave Chatham Charter a three-point advantage after one quarter.
The Knights built as much as a five-point lead on four occasions in the second period before Moore’s three-pointer from the right wing with 2:58 remaining in the first half drew the Bears within 22-20, but Hamilton’s turnaround jumper in the lane a minute later allowed Chatham Charter to carry a four-point advantage into intermission.
Chatham Central fought back to eventually pull even at 30-all on a Lucas Skertich lane jumper with 1:40 left in the third quarter prior to Trevor Golden’s free throw with 27.3 seconds left in the frame that sent the Knights into the final eight minutes with a one-point lead.
Moore’s trey from the left corner to start the fourth period gave the Bears their first advantage since the opening stanza, and following Hamilton’s put-back off the right baseline that regained a 42-41 lead for Chatham Charter with 3:30 remaining in the contest, Lagenor’s three-pointer from behind the top of the key gave Chatham Central its final advantage with 3:08 to play.
But Alston’s trey from the left corner 27 seconds later put the Knights in front to stay, and Connor Murphy’s conventional three-point play with 1:37 to go increased the winners’ lead to 48-44.
With time running out and Chatham Charter holding a 51-47 advantage, Lagenor’s three-pointer from beyond the top of the bonus arc with 5.3 seconds left narrowed the difference to one.
After Golden made the second of two free throw attempts with 4.1 seconds on the clock, the Bears had one last opportunity to salvage a triumph, but Moore’s desperation heave from midcourt as the final horn sounded fell short of the mark.