Lincoln Charter knew it had talent, but had to overcome off-the-court adversity to advance to a state final

By Richard Walker

Lincoln Charter’s Marcus Farley

When Lincoln Charter School prepared for its 2021 basketball season, it played in tough offseason leagues anticipating challenges in its pursuit of state playoff glory.

What the Eagles couldn’t have predicted were the hardships they’d face before their season even started and shortly after it began.

The entire LCS community was shaken on Dec. 27, 2020 when longtime teacher and coach Jamie Seitz died from COVID-19. Two weeks later, one of the team’s player lost his home due to a fire.

“The kids had two options: They could’ve folded but they dedicated their season to his (Jamie Seitz’s) memory and dealt with whatever adversity has come their way,” said Lincoln Charter coach Brad Gabriel, whose team plays Wilson Prep on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. at Wheatmore High School for the N.C. 1A state championship. “They’ve embraced that while he’s not here in person, he’s here in spirit.”

In a playoff run in which the Eagles routed four teams by a combined 121 points, Gabriel said Jamie Seitz’s son, senior center Carter Seitz channeled that better than anyone.

“We were having a tough stretch in the Mount Airy game,” Gabriel said of Tuesday’s 64-54 Western N.C. 1A championship win over Mount Airy. “And Carter said in the huddle, ‘We’re not going to lose.’ And we didn’t.”

Carter Seitz is part of a starting lineup with extroradinary balance and production.

Junior Sam Cogan is the leading scorer at 19.8 points per game. Jamie Seitz lead in rebounding at 11.2 per game. Sophomore Elijah Burnette leads in assists at 6.7 per game. And junior Marcus Farley (11.3 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.9 assist) and senior Troy Fulton (16.8 points, 4.0 rebounds) are all-around contributors.

After advancing to the third round of the state playoffs in each of the previous six seasons, Lincoln Charter entered the season with high hopes.

“We actually felt like we lost an opportunity last season and felt pretty good about what we had coming back for this season,” Gabriel said of last season’s team that finished 27-3 after losing in the Western semifinals. “So we felt like we had talent but with the pandemic and everything, you just don’t know what’s going to happen.”

Entering Saturday’s game, Lincoln Charter has gone 204-55 during Gabriel’s nine years as head coach. That’s included Lincoln County’s first-ever boys basketball state title in 2017 and deep playoff runs every year since 2015.

“We got tested by Mount Airy and won on a night in which we didn’t play particularly well,” Gabriel said. “We’ve worked for this opportunity and we’ve got one more game.”