PITTSBORO — Last season the Seaforth boys basketball team didn’t secure its first win until December.
But with another year of experience under their belt, the Hawks clinched a home-opening victory over the Carrboro Jaguars, 58-56, on Friday night. Though ultimately pleased with the final result, head coach Jarod Stevenson expressed that the victory featured a plethora of teachable moments.
“Getting this first win is real good,” Stevenson said. “I thought we started out well and it was looking like it would be a comfortable game, but obviously Carrboro is a good team. I thought the guys took a step forward toward the right direction and will hopefully get better as the season goes.”
After a 9-3 run in conference play last year — their first ever as a varsity program — the Hawks enter this season with increased expectations. Seaforth returns a young core headlined by junior forward Jarin Stevenson, a five-star prospect according to 247Sports and the No. 1 player from North Carolina in the Class of 2024.
The rangy forward has all the tools of a modern big man, with the ability to both handle the ball in tight spaces and extend his range from beyond the 3-point line. But out of the gate, it wasn’t Jarin’s lethal play that helped Seaforth open up a 12-point lead at the half.
Rather it was the scrappy, defensive leadership shown by Noah Lewis. The sophomore guard’s high ball pressure resulted in a number of fastbreak points for the Hawks, that were either finished off by Lewis himself or fellow teammates, namely junior guard Kooper Jones.
“I love to keep up the intensity for our team,” Lewis said. “I’m a point guard. I’m a leader for the team so they like to build off my tempo.”
Though it appeared the Hawks would cruise to victory, the Jaguars knew their program was capable of fighting back.
For the past five seasons, Carrboro has built one of the more consistent 3A programs in the state. Excluding the shortened COVID season two years ago, the Jaguars have won at least 16 games every year since 2017.
Out of the break, Carrboro offered its first punch of the night. Senior guard Truman Terry drilled back-to-back buckets from distance to spark an 11-0 run by the Jaguars.
With its lead trimmed to two points, Seaforth turned to its five-star forward.
“Jarin, he’s really the heart and soul of this team,” Lewis said. “He’s just a blessing to play with. He’s a great teammate, he’s a great leader and he always pushes us to our best.”
Over the final minutes of the third quarter, the five-star prospect slowly asserted himself within the flow of the game.
Compared to a first-half performance that saw Jarin Stevenson pass many opportunities to fellow teammates, the junior forward took matters into his own hand in the second half. Come the end of the third period, Stevenson — who finished the night with a game-high 26 points — had swished two 3-pointers and converted an and-one play to help keep the Jaguars at bay.
“When you got it going, that’s when you love (basketball),” he said. “That’s when it really feels good and right there I guess I was feeling it, and I was having fun.”
During the final quarter, Seaforth again turned to its budding star. This time at the charity stripe, the junior drilled four free throws with under a minute to play to help the Hawks maintain a two-possession lead.
“I just think of practice (at the line),” Stevenson said. “It’s the same thing as practice — just focus on what I have to do. It’s just a regular free throw and it’s nothing to get distracted on.”
But even with Stevenson’s pressure-cooker free throw makes, the Jaguars still had a chance to win the game in the closing seconds.
An inbound violation on Seaforth awarded Carrboro possession under its own basket, trailing by two points with 1.6 seconds remaining. But on the ensuing play, Lewis’ defense prevailed again, this time allowing him to block a Jaguar 3-point attempt as time expired.
The sophomore guard’s rejection secured the marquee win for the Hawks. And even though the team took a moment to celebrate its season-opening victory and Jarin’s 26-point performance, Seaforth knows there is plenty more work to be done this year.
“It was definitely a big (win),” Jarin Stevenson said. “We went in and celebrated a little bit, and jumped around a little bit — we were happy. We definitely have some stuff to clean up on though and this sets the tone for the rest of the season.”
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