Walden, Bland hit milestones; Central quietly playing well


Ahead of last Friday’s tilt between Chatham Charter and Woods Charters’ girls basketball teams, Knights senior Tamaya Walden was approached by her dad, who let her know how close she was to checking another personal milestone off her list.

When Walden heard she was 30 points away from 1,500 career points, she was unsure whether she could get the job done that night. Coming into the game, she hadn’t totaled 30 points on the season, and had only accomplished the feat four other times in her career so far. But after the dust settled in Chatham Charter’s 57-27 win over its rival, the senior guard had hit the mark right on the nose.

“I ended up surprising myself and made (my dad) happy,” Walden said. “It all caught me off guard. I wasn’t really expecting to get it Friday. It’s just another milestone that keeps me motivated and keeps me going toward that ultimate goal that I want.”

Walden’s latest accomplishment comes one month after she became the all-time leading scorer in Chatham Charter girls history. Her 1,500 career points are also the most of any player — girls or boys — currently playing high school basketball in Chatham County.

For the season, she is averaging a county-high 21.2 points per game to go with 4.2 rebounds, 4.9 assists and 3.2 steals. Chatham Charter entered this week with a 13-4 overall record and a 4-0 mark in league play.

Walden has been part of several successful teams during her time at Chatham Charter. As a freshman in 2019-20, Walden helped lead the Knights 27-4 record and a trip to the third round of the state playoffs while averaging 10.3 points per game. Last season, in 2021-22, Walden and the Knights made it to the second round of the playoffs before losing to Clover Garden School.

Compared to those previous teams, Walden believes this year’s squad is more tight-knit, a factor she says has contributed to their success.

“Every time we’re waiting for practice or a game, we’re in the locker room or doing something together, making each other laugh, riding with each other. We all have that tight bond,” she said. “We’re all sisters — a family — and I think we all have the same mindset when it comes to basketball, to win and to share the ball so everyone can have their moment. Any time, say, a freshman comes off the bench and starts playing, we all get excited for them. And whenever they score, we get excited for them. We just bring a lot of energy to the plate for each other.”

Bland passes 1K

Adding to the excitement of the past week, Northwood senior Te’Keyah Bland eclipsed the 1,000-point mark for her career in the Chargers’ game against New Hanover on Saturday.

Bland is the third Chatham County player to pass 1,000 career points already this season, joining Chatham Charter senior Adam Harvey and Seaforth junior Jarin Stevenson. She and Walden are the only active Chatham County girls to hit that mark in their careers.

This season, Bland is averaging 11.8 points, 6.9 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game while shooting 47% from the field and 75% from the free-throw line.

Bland has helped lead Northwood from an 0-3 start to the season to a 13-4 overall record and a 7-0 mark in conference play. The Chargers — who won the 3A state championship last season — are ranked by MaxPreps as the No. 4 team in the 3A East.

Earlier this season, Northwood head coach Kerri Snipes credited both Bland and fellow senior Gianna McManaman for the team’s turnaround.

“Having both of them has really encouraged the younger girls who haven’t always been in these positions with us to continue to fight it out until the end,” Snipes said.

Central girls on a roll

One of the overlooked basketball teams in the county this winter has been the Chatham Central girls, who have quietly put together a 10-5 record through their first 15 games this season.

The Bears, led by head coach Lynda Burke, came into the 2022-23 season having finished each of the past seven years with a record of .500 or better. Last season, Chatham Central started 2-9 before rallying to finish the year 14-14 overall.

The Bears have a 4-2 record in Mid-Carolina Conference play, which continued when Central played Eastern Randolph after press time. The team also plays Friday at home against Seaforth, which defeated the Bears, 63-20, earlier this month.

Since the first loss to the Hawks, Chatham Central is 4-1 and has allowed their opponents just 29.2 points per game on average.

Sports Editor Jeremy Vernon can be reached at or on Twitter at @jbo_vernon.