On Thursday night, the Chatham Charter Knights and Chatham Central Bears basketball programs met for the first time as conference opponents. And that’s a welcomed change for everyone – whether you wear purple or red.
This is the first year of the Central Tar Heel Conference, brought about when the former widespread Yadkin River Valley Conference grew big enough to split into two separate leagues.
Chatham Charter and Asheboro’s Uwharrie Charter gave the league enough teams to make the split happen, which works for the Knights, in their second year of varsity, are now in a conference and can experience playing a regular league schedule with championships on the line.
“It’s been extremely exciting to be part of a conference, especially a conference like this where every game is competitive (and has) a lot of good sportsmanship,” Chatham Charter boys basketball coach Jason Messier said.
But it may benefit the Bears even more. No more 100-120-mile-one-way trips from Bear Creek to Charlotte (Queen’s Grant) or Misenheimer (Gray Stone Day) or Monroe (Union Academy). Now, none of the other six schools is more than an hour away.
“You get back to playing normal, or local teams, and the fan base is better, the draw is better and the competition is better,” Chatham Central boys basketball coach Robert Burke said. “I love the conference we’re in.”
And the closet drive for the Bears in the new CTHC is Chatham Charter. The two 1A schools are separated by 11 miles, but haven’t quite gotten traction on a rivalry just yet. That will take some time.
“This is my first year ... but I don’t think anybody’s marked it as an intense rival right now,” Chatham Charter girls basketball coach Johnny Alston said.
For now, Chatham Central’s main target is still 2A county rival Jordan-Matthews, while the Knights still take aim at Uwharrie Charter. But if, in May, the next realignment proposal gets finalized as it stands now, the two 1A Chatham schools will be in the same conference until at least 2021.
“Playing in-county is nice,” Chatham Central girls basketball coach Lynda Burke said. “A lot of these kids have gone to elementary school together, so they know each other.”
Thursday’s games held a similar pattern: Chatham Central jumped out to a quick lead and held it throughout.
The Bears’ boys won 58-42 while the girls stayed unbeaten in the conference, winning 44-24.
Leading the way for the Knights’ boys (3-13, 0-5) was Jason Foulks with 15 points. The Bears (6-5, 2-2) had 25 points from Matt Clark, 15 from J.T. Moore and 12 from Matthew Morgan.
In the girls’ game, Chatham Charter (7-9, 1-4) had six points each from McKenna Nixon and Landin Eldridge while the Bears (10-4, 3-0) had 10 points each from Matti Moore and Courtney Williamson.
Chatham Central’s girls have a Friday showdown for first place against South Davidson.