SILER CITY — Chatham Charter freshman Brennan Oldham was large and in charge under the basket, maneuvering his 6-foot-6 frame to clog lanes, swat away shots, haul in rebounds and pump in some baskets.
Visiting Northwest Halifax had no recourse but to shoot from outside.
And boy, did they ever.
The Vikings rained in 11 3-pointers from every which direction in a back-and-forth nail-biter on Thursday before the Knights squeaked out a 60-56 last-second victory.
With the win, No. 1 seed Chatham Charter advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NCHSAA 1A state playoffs against Neuse Charter, where they crushed the Cougars, 68-36.
Against the Vikings, Chatham Charter appeared to be comfortably on the way to a win, leading 30-22 at the half. But the momentum swung to the Vikings in the third quarter with an 18-11 comeback that left the Knights clinging to a 1-point lead.
The visitors relentlessly nipped at the Knights’ heels the rest of the game.
Vikings junior Marjah Davis scored a game-high 29 points for Northwest Halifax, and was an absolute defensive menace on the other side of the ball to keep his team in the game.
He hit a 3-pointer to close the gap to 52-49 with 1:49 left in the game, created a lane where none existed at 1:03 to further cut the lead to 53-51, then stole the ball from Knights junior Adam Harvey and drove to the basket to knot the score, 53-53, with 35 seconds left to play.
A quick layup on a press break by Harvey gave the Knights a 55-53 lead, followed by a pair of clutch free throws from freshman Beau Harvey after a Vikings turnover, pushing their lead to 57-53.
Vikings senior Kanye Silver drained a 3-pointer to put the Vikings within 1 point with five seconds left, igniting support from his teammates on the bench, but Adam Harvey hit one of two free throws on the ensuing possession to make it 58-56.
Then, for one frozen moment that brought the partisan home crowd to a gasp and near silence, a long, 3-point Northwest Halifax shot ripped the nets in what would have given them a 59-58 lead with two seconds remaining.
But the refs whistled the play dead, ruling the shooter had stepped out of bounds.
Harvey was fouled on the ensuing inbounds pass, sank a pair of free throws and a wild celebration erupted at mid-court.
Harvey, who averaged 15.3 points per game coming into the contest, nearly matched Davis’ offensive output, scoring a team-high 28 points and tying his season-high set in the first game of the season against Vandalia Christian.
“I really just attacked the middle, attacked the rim,” Harvey said. “My teammates were passing the ball well and we just brought a lot of energy.”
Going deep in the playoffs is not new for Harvey. His freshman year, the team made it to the regional finals before bowing out. He said this year’s team is hoping to go even deeper.
“I think they’re ready,” he said. “They really want to make a run in the playoffs. We gotta keep going, we gotta keep the energy up. We can’t get tired.”
Harvey admitted to being nervous before the game. And he said the tension grew as the pesky Northwest Halifax team refused to give up.
“They really wanted the game. They came in and fought, but we just kept pounding on them,” Harvey said. “They were knocking down their threes. They’re a good team.”
In response, the Knights tried to protect the lead by holding the ball, drawing fouls and knocking down free throws.
“We just wanted to contest them and not foul,” Harvey said.
“They’re heading into the third round right now so they’re pumped up. They’re excited,” Chatham Charter Head Coach Jason Messier said of his young team, which has no seniors.
“The big thing for us was they (Northwest Halifax) had that momentum and we didn’t slow up” after the third quarter, he said. “We mentally kept fighting. Our leaders stepped up and made some baskets down there, made some big free throws down the stretch, so that’s a good win for us.”
The Knights are now 31-1 and on a 23-game win streak.
Northwest Halifax, the No. 8 seed, exited the playoffs at 14-10, having been outscored overall by opponents during the season.
“Any time you get into playoff basketball, records and all that stuff go out the door,” Messier said. “We were able to fight a good, well-coached team out here in Northwest Halifax.”
When not looping in long 3-pointers, the Vikings were playing a fierce half-court press on defense.
“Teams like that, the way they play and that style, they feed off that energy and momentum,” Messier said. “We started dribbling a little too much and got uncomfortable with the things that we were doing that were successful for us in the first half. … Adam Harvey started bringing the ball up and he attacked the basket and got some good shots at that point.”
Messier gave a tip of the hat to Davis.
“Obviously he is their man, just as Adam is our man. The nice thing is we had some other guys” step up, he said.
Amir Mapp had 10 points, and Beau Harvey had 9.
“Beau has continued to handle that pressure and he’s had success doing that all year long,” Messier continued. “You have to realize (he) is a freshman and my big boy (Oldham) is a freshman as well. So this is their first experience in playoff basketball, and they’ve grown leaps and bounds these last two games.”
The top-seeded Knights will host 12th-seeded KIPP Pride on Tuesday night in the Elite Eight of the 1A men’s bracket, which will take place after the News + Record’s press deadline.
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