Kestrel Heights’ dream season came to a nightmarish end on Saturday as the Hawks fell to Lincoln Charter 97-75 at the Smith Center.
Kestrel Heights (31-2), which opened the season with 26 straight wins, suffered only its second loss of the season. Javier Rogers, who was named the most outstanding player from the East, led the Hawks with a game-high 31 points, including 5-of-7 from behind the 3-point line. While Devon Ortiz (17 points) and David Mangum (12 points) joined Rogers in double figures, it was not enough.
“Any loss is a tough loss,” Kestrel Heights coach Lenell Wallace said. “A state championship loss is an even tougher loss. My guys are disappointed. We gave it all we had.”
Lincoln Charter (30-4) seemed to take advantage of every mistake made by Kestrel Heights to win the championship.
Lincoln Charter converted 12 Kestrel Heights turnovers into 20 points, and the Hawks had no answer for Lincoln Charter’s inside game. Lincoln Charter outscored Kestrel Heights 50-34 in the paint.
Lincoln Charter had its entire starting lineup reach double figures, led by point guard Kody Shubert (25 points). Jackson Gabriel and London England each added 19, while Levontae Knox had 15 and Jehlon Johnson finished with 10.
Lincoln Charter also was efficient from the floor, hitting 58.9 percent of its shots (33 of 56). Only Shubert (4-of-13) and Gabriel (7-of-15) hit less than 50 percent of their shots. England (7-of-8), Knox (6-of-7) and Johnson (5-of-5) tore it up inside against Kestrel Heights.
The Hawks weren’t terrible on offense. They just weren’t good enough.
They made 27 of 53 shots (50.9 percent), which included 9 of 17 from behind the arc. They weren’t bad on the boards, either, giving up only a 30-28 advantage to Lincoln Charter.
In the third quarter, with Ortiz on the bench due to foul trouble, the Hawks fell behind by 16 points before making a run at Lincoln Charter.
Jayvis Harvey started their 12-2 run by Kestrel Heights by hitting a 3 from the left wing. But it was his only basket after entering the game as the Hawks’ second-most prolific 3-point shooter. The Hawks kept the pressure up by scoring on four of their next five possessions, capped by a Marcotis Hall basket in the lane that cut the margin to 54-48.
But the hot streak turned cold, and the Hawks allowed Lincoln Charter to rebuild its double-digit lead.
Rogers said that comeback push took a lot out of the Hawks.
“If we had gotten it down to four points, it would have given us the confidence to come back,” Rogers said. “We were tired. I know I was exhausted.”
Kestrel Heights eventually trailed by as many as 22 points late in the fourth quarter.
Lincoln Charter’s 97 points set a new record in the 1A title game, breaking the mark of 88 set by Youngsville in 1968. It also was the second-highest point total across all four classes in the N.C. High School Athletic Association, behind the 101 scored by Parkland in 1999 en route to its 3A championship
It likely was the last basketball game for the foreseeable future for Kestrel Heights, which is losing its high school at the end of the school year following a decision by the State Board of Education. It was discovered that Kestrel Heights had awarded diplomas to students who had not met graduation requirements several years ago.
If Kestrel loses its final appeal, it will continue as a K-8 school and not be allowed to add high school grades for at least three years.