FAIRMONT — Fans expecting a classic finish between conference rivals Wednesday night in the first round of the Robeson County Shootout were in for a different kind of treat by the final horn at Fairmont.
The much-anticipated matchup between the area’s two hottest teams was a one-sided dud, a 99-59 Fairmont victory that snapped Red Springs’ four-game winning streak and provided a glimpse into the dominant Golden Tornadoes of old fueled by a frenetic-paced offense with interchangeable parts.
“We came out focused, relentless,” said Jarrod Neal, Fairmont’s senior point guard. “Red Springs did a lot of talking in the hallway (pregame), but we waited and did all of our talking on the court.”
Fairmont (5-1) picked a good time to play its best half of the season during the opening 16 minutes, winning their 10th straight game against the Red Devils thanks to an onslaught of transition buckets, second-chance points and strong production from its bench.
Sophomore forward Alshaquan Williams was a star inside, scoring 18 points to go along with 12 rebounds and three blocks. Neal’s season-high 22-point, six-assist outing helped erase the remnants of a opening game Shootout loss last season that ended the Golden Tornadoes’ three-year streak of appearing in the tournament’s title game.
Fairmont’s won four Shootout championships, its last coming in 2010.
“This was the breakout game I was looking for from us,” Fairmont coach Michael Baker said. “We rebounded. We hit shots. We defended. That first half was the best we’ve looked all season. You can tell Red Springs has the pieces to be a good team and eventually you’re going to see that out of those guys. We just played with a ton of intensity.”
Williams’ one-handed breakaway dunk following a slip and mishandled possession at midcourt from Red Springs’ Jared Foster put Fairmont ahead 35-21 with 5:21 left in the second quarter. The Golden Tornadoes ended the frame on a 12-0 run over the final three minutes as the manageable deficit spiraled out of control on the turnover-prone Red Devils.
Foster finished with 13 points and five assists, but Red Springs couldn’t overcome 28 turnovers.
“I really don’t know what happened out there,” Foster said. “Everybody’s minds weren’t in it.”
Fairmont appears deeper in the frontcourt than it was last season with a bevy of forwards who showcased length and athleticism in the Shootout first round. Despite losing Kwinton Hinson to Quality Education Academy in the offseason, the Golden Tornadoes haven’t seen a drop in scoring and have a bench that could be Baker’s best in several seasons.
Tylek McNair chipped in 11 points in limited action while Anthony Watson nearly had a double-double as a second-teamer with 12 points and nine rebounds.
Red Springs coach Glenn Patterson wasn’t happy with his team’s seeding coming in, but that was no excuse Wednesday night.
His Red Devils were outplayed from the start and he blamed it on practice. The defeat was Red Springs’ 10th straight to Fairmont dating back to February 2010.
“Maybe this kind of loss is good for us to kind of show of us what we’re made of,” Patterson said. “You play like you practice and yesterday we had a shoddy practice. We just didn’t come out ready to play tonight. The good news is this is the Robeson County Shootout and we’ll see these guys a couple more times when it really counts during conference play.”
Red Springs (4-4) will need to win tonight against St. Pauls to play in Saturday’s fifth-place game at UNCP.
The Golden Tornadoes host Richmond in one of two boys’ semifinal contests on Friday.
Lady Red Devils survive upset bid
Red Springs’ girls basketball team nearly blew a seven-point lead in the final minute during Wednesday’s opening game, but held on to beat Fairmont, 41-38.
The Lady Red Devils (3-5) seized a 41-34 lead in the last two minutes and tried playing keepaway before consecutive turnovers led to a Marsha Clewis layup and a corner jumper from Carrington Mitchell that gave Fairmont an opportunity.
With 1.2 seconds left ahead by 3, Red Springs successfully got the ball into play and held possession before the Lady Golden Tornadoes could foul. Rocio Pecina poured in 15 points for the Lady Red Devils. Shantanna Norris added eight with 17 rebounds.
Mitchell, a freshman, drained three 3-pointers in the third quarter for Fairmont and finished with a game-high 18.
Reach staff writer Brad Crawford at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @MrPalmettoSDS.
Fairmont 99, R. Springs 59
Red Springs 15 12 16 26 — 59
Fairmont 25 31 26 17 — 99
Red Springs — James Chavis 19, Jared Foster 13, McGeachy 9, Graham 7, Baker 4, Blue 4, Tucker 2, Atkinson 1.
Fairmont — Jarrod Neal 22, Alshaquan Williams 18, Anthony Watson 12, Tylek McNair 11, Hines 8, Milton 8, Lambert 6, McQueen 5, Barfield 3, Green 3, Flick 2.
3-Point Goals — RS: Chavis 3, McGeachy. FMT: Neal 3, Hines, Milton, Green, McNair.
Fouled Out — RS: Atkinson.
Records — Red Springs 4-4; Fairmont 5-1.
R. Springs 41, Fairmont 38
Red Springs 9 13 7 12 — 41
Fairmont 6 10 14 8 — 38
Red Springs — Rocio Pecina 15, Norris 8, Snow 6, Leach 5, R. McPhaul 3, Smith 2, Brice 2.
Fairmont — Carrington Mitchell 18, Ingram 6, Clewis 6, Hicks 4, Lesane 2, McCormick 2.
3-Point Goals — FMT: Mitchell 3. RS: Pecina 2.
Fouled Out — FMT: Thorndyke.
Records — Red Springs 3-5; Fairmont 1-5.