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North Stanly men face Chatham Central in battle for first place in YVC

First place in the Yadkin Valley Conference was on the line Tuesday night when the North Stanly Comets hosted the Chatham Central Bears.

The visitors built a significant lead only to see the Comets rally and win in the final seconds, 52-51.

Clay Hatley scored six of his 12 points in the fourth quarter for North (6-2, 6-0 YVC), including two free throws with 12 seconds left which were the difference in the game.

Stefan Harris led North Stanly with 16 points, including 12 in the third quarter, hitting four times from the three-point arc. Dyson Bell added 13 points for the Comets.

Michael Moore was top scorer in the game and for Chatham Central (4-1, 3-1) with 25 points, 15 of which came in the first quarter. He scored all but six of the Bears’ points in the opening period.

Chatham Central (4-1, 3-1) built a 17-point lead in the first half and led after three quarters 44-31.

However, full court pressure by North Stanly forced the Bears into turnovers. When Chatham was able to break the pressure and get into the front court, the visitors did not score for the first 5:46 of the last period.

A press defense was not something the team had practiced, North head coach George Walker said. He said he and his staff “drew it up in the sand” in the middle of the third period.

Dyson Bell put North up initially with a free throw with 3:31 left and the Comets built a three-point lead, but the Bears surged back to the tie the game on two different occasions.

With the game tied at 49, Hatley was fouled in the backcourt intentionally and sent to the foul line. He hit the first but missed the second.

Chatham regained the lead on a Moore basket with 31.3 seconds left, then fouled Stefan Harris seconds later. Harris missed the front end of the one-and-one and the Bears got the rebound.

Leading by one, Chatham took a shot at the rim and missed. Hatley secured the defensive rebound and drawed a foul with 12 seconds left while still under the basket.

Upon getting fouled, Hatley said he felt excited and confused at the same time, having gone 1-of-2 at the line three different times during the game.

“I calmed myself down,” he said as he walked to the huddle before his foul shots. “The coaching staff told me, ‘Take a deep breath. It’s OK. It’s a free throw. Just shoot your free throw shot.’ ”

Hatley made both, but the Bears had one more opportunity. Moore was double-teamed and had to pass the ball. He got it back in the final seconds of the game and threw up a shot in the lane, hitting the floor as the shot missed and the horn sounded.

Regarding the press defense, Hatley said his team “has a smart basketball IQ as a team…we have played together since fifth, sixth and seventh grade. We have chemistry as a team.”

Bell said in the third quarter he and his teammates “knew we had to pick it up. We wanted to be conference champions again…we had to have high energy with the press.”

Walker said the team “flipped the switch” in the middle of the third, adding “we had a sense of urgency about us…I could see it in their eyes that we had a chance.”

Recalling the non-conference loss to Forest Hills at the buzzer, Walker said the team was hurting after losing at the buzzer to the Jackets.

“The first time all season, I thought this mattered. This is important. They were hurt they lost because they fought so hard,” Walker said.

The coach said North rallying from nine down at Albemarle to win in overtime in the closing moments helped the team tonight.

“When you win one like that, you think, ‘Hey! We can do it again,’ ” Walker said. “We just dug deep and found a way tonight.”

The week does not get easier for North as the Comets travel to Uwharrie Charter Friday to face the only other team undefeated in YVC play this season in the Eagles.

About Charles Curcio

Charles Curcio was the sports editor of the Stanly News & Press from 1999-2001 and has currently served in the same capacity since 2008. He was awarded the NCHSAA Tim Stevens Media Representative of the Year and named CNHI Sports Editor of the Year in 2014. He has also been honored twice by the North Carolina Press Association.

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