Mental toughness, brotherly love fuel Knights to Final Four

Elite 8 win over Panthers advances team to 1A East Regional Final

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SILER CITY — On Tuesday, Chatham Charter’s men’s basketball team advanced to the NCHSAA 1A Final Four for the second time in its eight-year history — but not before a bruising, physical clash with KIPP Pride that featured aggressive bumping, thumping and spilling across the hardwood in a 57-49 donnybrook.

The No. 1 seed Knights, whose winning streak is now at 24 games ­­­— their last loss was Dec. 3 — will be the home team when they play No. 2 seed Wilson Prep on Saturday at J.H. Rose High School in Greenville.

Wilson Prep defeated No. 11 North Edgecombe, 76-64, to punch its ticket.

Outsized in height but not in heart, the Knights weathered three lead changes in an explosive first quarter against visiting No. 12 seed KIPP, built a 13-point lead later in the game only to watch it evaporate repeatedly in never-say-die comebacks by the pesky Panthers of Gaston County, and benefited from some brotherly love on the court.

Junior Adam Harvey scored a game-high 25 points and his brother, freshman Beau Harvey, tickled the nets for 19. Together they accounted for 77% of Chatham Charter’s scoring.

“I love him. He’s my little brother, but he’s a big part of the team, and he really helps us out there,” Adam Harvey said after a post-game locker room celebration.

“We have always played together throughout the years. Always in the back yard, we always put in the work. So we combine it, and we just play together well, and the other three guys stepped up too,” Beau Harvey said. “It’s great, going from the backyard days to now in high school going into the Final Four.”

Beau Harvey doesn’t play like a freshman. He’s cool, composed and often in command. It helped against a KIPP team that had four rugged starters over 6-foot-5.

“We expected it, but they were very physical. Probably the most physical team we’ve played this year,” Beau Harvey said. “They were a lot taller, but we just outsmarted them, kept working, kept going and we ended up scoring.”

And it pays to listen to the coach.

“Coach [Jason Messier] just told me to keep driving, keep attacking and I just listened and it worked,” Beau Harvey said. He nearly matched his season-high 21 points he posted in the holiday tournament in December.

Adam Harvey, the team’s spark, said he didn’t get rattled when KIPP continually carved away gaping leads that were never secure.

“I knew we just had to fight back,” Adam Harvey said. “I knew we weren’t going to fold under the pressure. I just have trust and faith in my teammates we’re going to pull it out.

“We were really strong on the defensive end … and we had a fantastic free throw performance,” he added. “We dominated from the line. It won us the game.”

The Knights have struggled in the past few games from the charity stripe, but on Tuesday, they tossed in 23 of 30 free throws, a 77% performance.

In stark contrast, KIPP was 3 for 9 on foul shots (33%).

Messier, Chatham Charter’s head coach, acknowledged his players struggled with the imposing altitude of the Panthers, who clogged the lanes and zealously protected the basket with their wide wingspans. The Knights shot 14-for-36 from 2-point range (38%), and 2-for-10 from 3-point range (20%).

“I think that, ultimately, we got inside where we were looking to attack the basket, and I think that’s what got us to that free throw line. We got some fouls on rebounds and really we have that toughness,” Messier said. “At this point in the season, you’ve got to have that toughness to get through and this is how it’s been.”

Messier said many teams falter when a towering team like KIPP comes into the gymnasium. He called it the eye-test factor.

“You look at them and think, ‘Wow, they’re big and they’re monsters,’ but the guys here, they don’t get intimidated by teams,” Messier said. “They go out and do the things that they know they can execute,” and in the process, held Panthers 6-foot-5 junior guard Chicale Ward to 12 points.

He had been averaging 26 points-per-game for the Panthers coming into the contest.

“What matters is heart, passion,” Messier said. “I thought my guys went out there and gave it everything they have. They left it all on the floor. And because they did that, they got the win.”

While he praised all his players for contributing to the victory even if the stat books didn’t show it, Messier said the Harvey brothers bring a special chemistry to the team.

“At this point in the season, you’re going to have players step up in the big moment,” Messier said. “And these young guys have stepped up. Big-time players step up in big-time moments.”

The Knights’ defensive intensity set the tone early, building a healthy 26-15 lead at halftime. But not before a hotly contested first quarter.

The Panthers drew first blood, but with 3:30 to play, Beau Harvey drilled a 3-pointer from the corner to give the Knights their first lead, 7-5. Brandon Hyman put the visitors back out in front, 9-8, at 1:35, but Beau Harvey sank four consecutive free throws to give Chatham Charter a 12-9 lead at the end of a low-scoring period.

In the second quarter, the Knights extended their lead to 26-15, featuring Beau Harvey’s second 3-pointer, freshman Brennan Oldham tossing in four free throws and Adam Harvey adding another three free throws of his own.

Khyelle Ingram, the Panthers’ leading scorer with 15 points, kicked off a third quarter comeback.

He hurled in a 3-pointer at the 7:34 mark that jump-started an 11-4 run. That cut the lead from 11 to 4 points with 3:34 left in the period.

With 55 seconds remaining, KIPP scored six unanswered points to pull within one point, 35-34, but Adam Harvey answered with an and-one bucket, hitting the free throw, to push the lead back out to 38-34 before the buzzer.

“We knew they were going to come back and fight. We decided to weather that storm whenever it came, and we did,” Messier said.

But it was far from over.

KIPP whittled the lead down to one point again when senior Keion Patillo swished a 3-pointer with 3:15 left in the game, but as they had done repeatedly, the Knights quickly widened the margin.

Oldham snagged a rebound and pumped in a basket. Adam Harvey struck next, again with a basket and free throw, and then he converted a second pair of free throws after he was intentionally fouled with 1:24 showing on the clock.

That 7-point run and the 55-47, 8-point lead it rebuilt, effectively iced the win.

On Saturday, the Knights will get their second crack at a state title appearance, having last made a 1A regional final in 2019-20, where they fell in a close game to No. 2 seed Winston-Salem Prep, 65-60.

Chatham Charter’s battle with Wilson Prep will take place at 2 p.m. on Saturday at J.H. Rose High School in Greenville.


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