As we enter the heart of conference play, the top girls basketball team in Chatham County this winter has been Seaforth, which is only in its second year as a varsity program.
The Hawks boast an 11-2 record entering this Friday’s home game against Graham. Last week, Seaforth went 2-1, picking up wins over county foes Chatham Central and Jordan-Matthews by a combined score of 119-30.
Seaforth head coach Charles Byrd led his team to a 19-8 overall record and a 12-0 record against conference opponents in the Hawks’ first season in 2021-22. Seaforth won its first-ever playoff game with a 55-39 victory over Kinston in the first round of the 2A tournament before falling to Whiteville in the second round.
“The biggest thing is, I think we’re a lot deeper,” Byrd said. “Last year, we only had eight girls, but our rotation right now is already at eight girls. I also think we’re a little bit more experienced. We’re playing better as a team. There are a number of areas where we’ve gotten much stronger ...
“I’m very proud of them. I think we had a few kinks we had to work out, but over the last couple weeks, I can tell our chemistry is getting better. They’re starting to trust each other a lot more on the floor. We’re getting stronger on defense as well.”
This season, Byrd has done his best to prepare the Hawks for what could be a grueling postseason stretch. This past week, Seaforth hosted Grace Christian — a non-NCHSAA private school that went 29-1 in 2021-22 and won the NCISAA 1A state championship. The Hawks ended up losing that game, 85-43.
Seaforth also has non-conference games scheduled against Chapel Hill and Chatham Charter before the end of the regular season. Byrd hopes playing these types of opponents will help the Hawks once they finally reach the postseason.
“I think some of the non-conference games we’ve added give us a different look that we don’t see in conference,” Byrd said. “I think it’s important, because when you get to the playoffs, you don’t know what type of style the team is going to play. Putting the girls into those challenging environments is very important, because we’re going to see those types of teams later on this season.”
How far Seaforth makes it in this year’s state playoffs will likely be dependent on the performance of sophomore Gabby White, the team’s star player who leads the Hawks in points (15.3), rebounds (10.0), assists (3.3) and steals (3.6) per game. She also led the team in all four statistical categories as a freshman in 2021-22.
Over the offseason, White approached Byrd about how she could step up more as a leader for the team. That drive to accept more responsibility is one of the many special traits the sophomore brings to the table.
“It’s very rare for someone to have to step up like that in your second year, because normally you have those juniors and seniors that you come in playing behind,” Byrd said. “You can come in and hear what they have to say and kind of follow their lead. For her to have to mature so early, it’s tough. It’s a rare thing to see.”
Seaforth is 4-0 in conference play. The only other teams in the Mid-Carolina Conference with a winning record currently are Chatham Central (8-4) and Bartlett Yancey (6-3). The Hawks have already defeated both this season.
Sports Editor Jeremy Vernon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @jbo_vernon.