FAIRMONT — There were plenty of questions heading into this season for Fairmont’s boys basketball team.
Who would replace county player of the year Kwinton Hinson’s scoring production in the frontcourt? How would the loss of Charlton Townsend affect post play?
The playoffs start next week and most of those answers have already surfaced.
The Golden Tornadoes wrapped up their fourth consecutive Three Rivers Conference regular-season championship Wednesday night against South Columbus, smothering the Stallions, 103-50, for their 17th win this season.
“We wanted to make a statement after (Red Springs thought we would stumble) and we certainly came out ready to play,” said Fairmont coach Michael Baker. “We did a lot of stuff right. We ran it and pushed the basketball throughout.”
Fairmont had extra motivation as the school celebrated the 20th anniversary of the 1994 state championship.
Baker was coach then, too.
“All of the postponements kind of made it difficult to schedule this ceremony, but our starting five and our sixth man were able to show up” he said. “We had good representation of that memorable team. The guys seemed really appreciative.”
The Golden Tornadoes (17-5, 12-1) used a 12-0 run midway through the first quarter to take a double-digit lead into the second and never looked back. Senior guard Kashawn Leonard, coming off a season-high 25 points in Monday’s victory at East Columbus, was one of six players in double figures with 17 points.
He’s helped shoulder some of the scoring burden down the stretch in Hinson’s absence and sophomore Alshaquan Williams has proven to be an ideal replacement for Townsend down low.
Williams poured in 20 against the Stallions Wednesday night.
“We knew we would be okay after losing those guys, but I didn’t think we’d be where we are right now with 17 wins,” Baker said. “I didn’t see us hitting 100 (points) as many times as we have. Our ball movement has made the difference.”
With the league’s top playoff seed secured, Fairmont’s locked in home playoff contests the first and second round. Despite clinching at least a share of a conference title, Baker says his team won’t take South Robeson — losers of 12 of their last 13 games — lightly Friday in Rowland.
“We’re going to get after it,” Baker said. “We don’t want to share anything.”
In the girls contest, Fairmont struggled to score in the final three minutes and fell to the Stallions, 43-32.
South Columbus’ previous lone win in the conference came before the new year and Wednesday’s victory snapped a 10-game skid. Freshman guard Carrington Mitchell led the Lady Golden Tornadoes with 12 points.
Lumberton girls clinch playoff spot
LAURINBURG — Mariah Locklear was understandably a little nervous when she got an open 3-point look in the closing moments of Wednesday’s 47-44, but that didn’t stop her from seizing the chance.
“I got open and I knew I had to hit it. I feel most comfortable when the ball is in my hands,” Locklear said.
The shot fell, giving the Pirates (14-8, 5-4) in the final points of the night with 8.5 seconds left. It was Scotland’s (11-8 and 9-1) only conference loss of the year.
It was the first game winner that Locklear said she can remember making, and it was followed by a desperation shot at the buzzer by ShanQaylia Stanton.
The overtime capped a fourth-quarter comeback by the Pirates. The game had been close all night, with Scotland staying ahead by just a handful of points. The Scots led by two at halftime and four at the start of the fourth quarter. The lead got as high as five points with 2:40 left before Lumberton’s Katlyn Singletary hit two key shots to send it to overtime tied at 42.
“I thought our kids played real hard and played with much resiliency tonight. We really challenged them on the way over here, on the court and during halftime to step up and really play well,” said Lumberton coach Danny Graham, who earned his 399th career win. “Our key to the game was to try and cut off Scotland’s best talent, which is inside and we did a good job, not a great job, but our kids did what we asked them to do and they gave us a great effort.”
The extra period was a defensive struggle, with neither team scoring until the final minute. Alexis Andrews scored first for Lumberton before Scotland tied it with 38 seconds left. Lumberton called a timeout, and got the ball to Locklear for the final points.
Singletary and Randi Bullard led the Pirates with 10 points each and Locklear had nine. Singletary finished with 13 rebounds for a double-double.
Destiny Campbell led Scotland with 16 points and 12 rebounds and nine blocks. Sellers also had a double-double with 12 points and 19 rebounds.
Lumberton boys near playoff berth
LAURINBURG — Lumberton pulled away in the second half of a must-win game at Scotland on Wednesday to move one step closer to the Southeastern Conference’s final playoff berth.
The Pirates (12-10, 5-4) beat the Scots 62-49 to move into third place in the conference standings and can clinch the playoff berth by beating Purnell Swett on Friday.
After leading 23-22 at halftime, Lumberton used interior defense to slow down Scotland (6-13, 5-5), winning the rebound battle and forcing turnovers.
“We did a better job of rebounding in the second half. They outrebounded us by about 20 the first time we played us, and we just had to do a better job on the boards,” Lumberton coach Mackie Register said.
Lumberton’s Travis Suggs led all scorers with 21 points and Darius Floyd added 12.
Scotland coach Michael Malpass said Lumberton played harder, and that was the difference in the end. Jaylend Ratliffe led Scotland with 15 points.
“I don’t think we played hard all night. They played harder and wanted it more and I’ll never understand that when you have to win,” Malpass said.
Corbin Ensminger of the Laurinburg Exchange contributed to this report.
Fairmont 103, South Columbus 50
South Columbus 18 3 10 19 — 50
Fairmont29 20 25 29 — 103
SOUTH COLUMBUS — Soles 12, C. McGill 2, Fink 3, Chesnut 3, Miller 20, Chatman 2, Daniels 5.
FAIRMONT — Alshaquan Williams 20, Kashawn Leonard 17, Jarrod Neal 13, Shyheim Hines 12, McQueen 10, Lambert 2, Fields 4, Malik Milton 15, Barfield 4, Powell 2, Watson 5.
3-Point Goals — SC: Miller 4, Soles, Fink, Chesnut, Daniels. FMT: Neal, Milton 3, McQueen.
Records — Fairmont 17-5, 12-1; South Columbus 11-10, 6-6.
South Columbus 43, Fairmont 32
South Columbus 11 8 11 13 — 43
Fairmont69 10 7 — 32
SOUTH COLUMBUS — Dayton 14, Harris 9, Spencer 8, Turbarila 5, McPherson 3, Newman 2.
FAIRMONT — Carrington Mitchell 12, Ingram 8, Clewis 5, Hicks 4, Reed 2, Henderson 1.
Records — Fairmont 3-16, 3-10; South Columbus 5-14, 2-11.