BEAR CREEK — The battle last week in Bear Creek was a matchup you didn’t want to miss.
The amped-up crowd on both sides and plethora of back-and-forth plays between the two teams made for a great game with many ups and downs.
The Seaforth Hawks (12-9, 9-3 conference) came into this feud looking to capitalize on already having beaten the Chatham Central Bears (7-10, 6-5 conference) earlier in the season. But Chatham Central was hoping to even the score against Seaforth and try to improve on their conference record to inch closer to a playoff spot.
The Hawks, for the most part, controlled the game throughout its runtime, securing a 58-43 win over the Bears once the final buzzer sang.
Seaforth standout sophomore Jarin Stevenson — a player who’s received loads of Division I interest this season — didn’t disappoint.
His buckets in the post and defensive presence down low made for a troublesome night for the Bears, who, at times, struggled to keep pace with a surging Hawks squad.
Stevenson finished with a game-high 21 points.
“We were trying to do something to take him out of his game,” said Bears Head Coach Robert Burke, whose team also gave up 19 points to Stevenson when the two teams clashed on Jan 28.
Chatham Central senior Nick Jourdan gave the Hawks much trouble from beyond the arc, draining five 3-pointers throughout the game, culminating in an impressive 17-point performance.
However, he wasn’t the only Bear that was hitting shots from deep, as freshman Reid Albright also hit two colossal 3-pointers for Chatham Central.
But from the opening tip, Seaforth took command of the game.
An early and-one bucket by Stevenson led to a put back by Hawks sophomore Chris Walker after the missed free throw by Stevenson.
Later, a quick steal and fastbreak layup by Seaforth sophomore Lochlan Haddix gave the Hawks an 8-2 lead into the first timeout, but Chatham Central wasted no time in striking back, with Jourdan making two 3-pointers to shorten the deficit to 12-8.
When the first quarter ended, Seaforth held onto a 16-10 lead.
Stevenson was subbed out following the conclusion of the first quarter, which gave way to a 6-1 run by the Bears. Chatham Central’s Albright and Jourdan combined to make two massive 3-pointers, cutting it to a one-point game, 17-16, in favor of the Hawks.
After the triples, the Chatham Central crowd was ebullient, but a pair of missed free throws by the Bears cost them a shot at the lead.
“We missed a buttload of free throws,” said Burke after the game.
With 3:50 left to go in the second quarter, Stevenson was subbed back in, which guided the Hawks on an 11-0 run in the final minutes of the first half.
It started with sophomore William Perkins hitting a big 3-pointer for Seaforth that led to a fastbreak layup after a miss by the Bears.
Capping off the Hawks’ four minutes of dominance was a halftime buzzer-beater by Matthew Lucas. The 6-foot-3 freshman came away with the rebound after a missed 3-point attempt and pulled up for a mid-range shot over Bears senior Collin Lagenor for the basket. As the buzzer sounded, the Seaforth crowd and fans emitted a loud burst of excitement.
Coming into the second half, Seaforth led the game, 26-16.
Chatham Central came out of the locker room hot, cutting the deficit to five, 31-26, with those points coming from a layup by Lagenor and a 3-pointer from Jourdan.
Stevenson then put a stop to the Bears’ run with 2:57 to go in the third quarter with an emphatic and-one under the basket that got the Seaforth crowd and bench out of their seats. But the celebrating from the Hawks’ fans were quickly turned into an uproar of frustration after a technical was called on Stevenson following the play.
In response to the drama of the previous sequence, Stevenson put down a vicious block in the next one, leading the crowd back onto their feet.
The Hawks went on another tear late in the third with a 10-2 run, concluding the quarter with a 41-28 lead and putting them in prime position to win the game.
Albright opened up the final quarter with a 3-pointer for the Bears.
The teams then exchanged back-to-back charge fouls, contributing to the game’s final minutes being both physical and eventful.
With 2:45 left to play, Seaforth freshman Noah Lewis made two clutch free throws for the Hawks to give them a 10-point lead, 50-40, and seal the win.
Jourdan hit another 3-pointer for the Bears, but at that point, it was too little, too late.
Little sealed the game for the Hawks with an and-one in the final minute, propelling the Hawks to their final regular-season conference victory of the year, 58-43.
With the win, the Hawks improved to 12-8 overall and 9-3 in conference play before falling to the North Moore Mustangs in the first round of the Mid-Carolina 1A/2A conference tournament on Monday.
The Bears, however, fell to 6-10 overall and 5-5 in the Mid-Carolina 1A/2A, but followed it up with a 58-50 win over Jordan-Matthews Jets the next day and a 71-62 victory against the Bartlett Yancey Buccaneers on Monday in the first round of the conference tournament, keeping them alive.
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