Wildcat alums return for ‘Night of Champions’

February 7, 2014 

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East Chapel Hill High School basketball coach Ray Hartsfield, shown in this 1998 News & Observer photo, will be reunited Friday with star player Chris Hobbs (left) and other members of the Wildcats’ 1997 NCHSAA state champions.

ROBERT WILLETT — Robert Willett - NewsObserver.com

East Chapel Hill High School will host a “Night of Champions” Friday in Wildcat Gym, where it will honor its 1997 state basketball champions with a special ceremony.

Members of the 1997 NCHSAA champions will be recognized in between the men's and women's varsity basketball games. The ceremony is expected to start about 7 p.m.

Coach Ray Hartsfield’s 1996-97 Wildcats (24-5) are notable not only for winning a state championship in the first year of the school’s existence, they also did it without any seniors on the team – an unprecedented combination of achievements for a N.C. High School Athletics Association basketball program.

East Chapel Hill’s 60-59 victory over Hickory in the 3A final is regarded by the NCHSAA as one of the most dramatic finishes in state tournament history.

The Wildcats were ahead by 8 points with 5:51 to play before the Red Tornadoes (23-5) stormed back and actually led by 4 with 58 seconds left to play. Guard Andy Jones sank a long 3-point basket as the time ran out to lift East Chapel ill to the school’s first state championship.

East’s Brian FitzGerald was named MVP of the game after scoring 13 points to go with nine rebounds and four blocks. Paul Kindem led the scoring with 15 points, while freshman Chris Hobbs provided strong inside play. Hobbs eventually went on to pay at Clemson, where he was named to the All-ACC Freshman Team.

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