After rough week, Kestrel Heights celebrates regional championship win

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WNCN) — Saturday was a day of celebration for Kestrel Heights students.

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CLICK TO VIEW 14 LARGER PHOTOS FROM THE GAME

The Kestrel Hawks are now regional champions after a basketball game in Fayetteville earlier Saturday.

The big win comes just two days after the North Carolina Board of Education voted to close the high school.

Despite this possibly being the worst week in Kestrel Heights school history, Saturday’s game was all about team work, good vibes and school spirit.

“It’s just amazing that we did it, I was scared watching the game, my heart kept dropping,” said Gabrielle Mills, a 2015 Kestrel Heights graduate.

Inside Fayetteville’s Methodist University, the Kestrel Hawks took on Williamston’s Riverside Knights.

It was a game full of energy, emotion and excitement.

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Javier Rogers scored 21 points to lead Kestrel Heights to a 63-53 win over Riverside in the 1A Boys Eastern Regional title game.

Kestrel Heights improved to 31-1 with the victory.

The game came two days after a decision came to close the Durham charter high school.

CLICK FOR 14 LARGER PHOTOS FROM THE GAME
CLICK FOR 14 LARGER PHOTOS FROM THE GAME

An internal investigation found that over eight years, 160 of Kestrel’s 399 previous graduates had not taken all state-required courses.

“To see us get taunted and humiliated in the public and people say ‘Oh, you go to Kestrel’ and they look at you a certain way, it’s kinda demeaning,” said J’Cori Hall, a 2016 Kestrel Heights graduate.

On July 1, the high school will close for three years.

That means some 280 students will have to find another school and two dozen teachers may be out of a job.

“Everything has consequences and, unfortunately, this is something that we had to deal with. Thankfully we have an administration in place that are taking care of things they need to take care,” said Michelle Baskett, a parent of a Kestrel Heights student.

At Saturday’s game, both teams were neck and neck by the end of the second quarter.

But during the second half, the Kestrel Hawks caught fire and won by 10 points.

The win marks the first time a Kestrel Heights team has earned a regional basketball championship.

“This is an unbelievable moment, something we dreamed of since last year when we were eliminated in the elite 8. We put in the work and we’re reaping the rewards,” said Lenell Wallace, the head coach for the Kestrel Hawks.

Kestrel Heights played the game in their practice uniforms after the team left their game uniforms at their school.

The Kestrel Heights Hawks now advance to the state finals.

— WNCT-TV contributed to this report

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