PITTSBORO — If you were anywhere near Seaforth Road in Pittsboro last Friday night, you probably heard the variety of sounds emanating from the gym of Chatham’s newest high school late into the evening.
Jaws hitting the freshly constructed floor.
Buzzer after buzzer after buzzer screeching from the scoreboard.
Screams, sighs and “did that just happen?”s pouring from the stands.
Those were the sounds of the men’s basketball game between the Seaforth Hawks and the visiting Jordan-Matthews Jets, both entering the contest as two-win teams fighting for relevancy in the Mid-Carolina 1A/2A conference.
Each game-changing moment — of which there were plenty — had its own unique sound, where the divided crowd’s half-exuberant, half-despondent undertones could be heard beneath its weight.
And it didn’t disappoint.
Nearly two and a half hours after the game’s original start time, the Hawks downed the Jets, 70-61, in a triple-overtime thriller complete with inconceivable stat lines, an unlikely comeback and a boatload of fouls.
To open the fourth quarter scoring for Seaforth, sophomore Tyshawn Davenport drove down the baseline, around a J-M defender, and smoothly banked the ball off of the backboard and through the net.
His shot gave the Hawks a 16-point lead, 46-30, with 7:08 to play.
It’d be the last basket from Seaforth for the next six minutes of game time.
From there, the Jets dug deep and slowly chipped away at the Hawks’ lead. At that point, there isn’t much else you can do.
“That’s something we talked about at halftime, just getting back to playing J-M basketball,” Rodney Wiley, the Jets’ head coach, said following the loss, “it’s just getting out and guarding and it took us a long time to get going, but starting the fourth quarter, that’s what we did.”
A floater from senior Jacob Carter.
A pair of free throws from senior Rayshaun Alston.
A bucket in the paint from junior Dallas Richardson.
With each passing possession, the Jets patiently whittled down the deficit.
Seaforth freshman Noah Lewis knocked down two free throws to keep the Hawks’ lead at 12 with 4:14 to play, but a little over 30 seconds later, J-M senior Colby Daniel drained a 3-pointer to cut it to single digits.
Davenport hit a free throw to put the Hawks ahead by 10, but shortly after, with less than three minutes left in the game, Alston fought through contact in the paint, drew the attention of the official’s whistle and scored the bucket (and the ensuing free throw).
He was just getting started.
Alston went on to score 10 of the Jets’ final 12 points of regulation, including another and-one basket to tie the game at 49 apiece, followed by a pair of free throws that gave the Jets a 51-49 lead with just 1:07 left.
It was an unbelievable performance to cap off an even more unbelievable comeback as Alston’s free throws were part of a larger 20-3 run by the Jets.
“At the end, we want it in his hands,” Wiley said of his senior guard. “That way he can create and then, if they go double, we’ve got guys that can shoot the open shot. So that’s what we want.”
With a little over a minute to play, J-M’s crowd went from tight-lipped to thunderous, while Seaforth’s was understandably stunned. Add head coach Jarod Stevenson to that list.
“I thought we looked good until the last part of the fourth quarter, then things sort of fell apart,” Stevenson said of his team’s late-game collapse. “I don’t know if it was maybe because we weren’t in shape or if guys just aren’t used to playing with each other for two weeks, so we had a lot of turnovers.”
The ball was inbounded to Seaforth’s sophomore standout Jarin Stevenson, a 6-foot-8 forward that had his way against the Jets, but had been relatively quiet in the fourth quarter.
He promptly drove down the court, forced his way into the paint and scored with ease, tying it at 51 with 56.9 seconds left.
The Jets were unable to muster a basket in the final minute, despite a made jumper by Carter as the buzzer sounded off of a missed 3-pointer by sophomore Ian McMillan, which the officials waved off, claiming he didn’t get the shot off before the buzzer (video evidence later showed it was the right call).
It was on to overtime.
And, as expected, the overtime periods were just as wacky as the game’s fourth quarter.
There were plenty of turnovers by both teams — 11 in total — chaotic possessions, big shots and moments when each team’s fanbase was sure they had a victory in the bag.
Both the first and second overtimes featured late, clutch shots by Alston, including a floater with 2.4 seconds left in the second overtime period that gave the Jets a 61-60 lead.
However, in what would prove to be a fatal mistake, Carter fouled Stevenson with 0.3 seconds left as he brought the ball up the court. Since both teams were in the double-bonus, Stevenson got two free throws. He hit one of them, keeping Seaforth alive and sending the game into it’s third and final extra period.
In the third overtime period, it was all Stevenson.
After Alston fouled out early in the period — a big blow to the Jets with Alston having contributed eight of J-M’s 10 points in the first two overtime periods — Stevenson went on a tear, scoring seven of his team’s nine points, including five made free throws to seal the game.
Seaforth outscored J-M, 9-0, in the final overtime, eking out a victory that originally had no business being that close.
“We had a couple of stops on defense and we got some points in transition,” Jarod Stevenson said when asked about the key to pulling away in the third overtime period. “It’s always about if you can score easy buckets and usually that happens after a good defensive stop or a turnover.”
As impressive as the two teams were — both grinding through an extra quarter and a half of basketball to try and secure the win — this game will be remembered for just how bright the stars shined on both ends of the court.
Stevenson finished the night with an otherworldly stat line, putting up 42 points on 12-of-16 shooting (75%), tacking on 21 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals and 8 blocks.
Six of those blocks came in overtime, including three in the final period.
“I thought he played well,” Jarod Stevenson said of Jarin, who’s also his son. “He and Noah (Lewis), they need to try and get the ball more when they see we’re turning the ball over a lot, so I’m trying to get those two guys to have the ball in their hands more, where they’re making the decisions instead of passing it to the other guys.”
Then there’s Alston, who finished with a team-high 29 points and left everything he had on the court, scoring 18 of the Jets’ final 22 points in the fourth quarter and overtime.
All-in-all, the Friday night barnburner featured 17 lead changes and 131 total points in 44 minutes of game time.
It was the perfect start to what’s sure to be one of the next great in-county and conference rivalries.
“It looks like (it’s the start of a rivalry), it looks like it,” Jarod Stevenson said. “And to be as physical as it was, I think it’ll be a good rivalry.”
With the narrow victory, the Hawks — who had been away from the court for the last couple of weeks due to COVID-19-related quarantines — improved to 3-5 on the season (2-1 conference), while the Jets fell to 2-9 (2-2 conference).
Reporter Victor Hensley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @Frezeal33.
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