FAIRMONT — The quest for Three Rivers Conference title No. 7 is back within striking distance for the Fairmont boys basketball team.
The second half of its two games in two-day stretch on Wednesday came against a Whiteville team that had won nine games in a row. And despite the fatigue, the Golden Tornadoes fought through to win their seventh straight and top Whiteville 63-51 at home.
Fairmont (15-4, 7-2 TRC), Whiteville (12-5, 9-2 TRC) and St. Pauls each have two losses in conference play after Fairmont entered the week with one more loss than both teams.
“I think they gave a good effort playing back-to-back like that, especially in this kind of atmosphere,” said Fairmont coach Montrell McNair. “They endured a lot — and some of those guys worked out today — and they fought through it.
“I told them to leave everything on the floor tonight, and we will worry about tomorrow, tomorrow.”
Fairmont’s seven-game win streak has came without Jarique Moore, who sustained an injury nearly three weeks ago, but guards like Derrick Arnette and Corry Addison, along with the play of senior Julius Caulder, have the Golden Tornadoes in a good rhythm hitting the home stretch. Those three’s play on both ends of the court helped Fairmont come away with the win over the Wolfpack.
“I saw a lot of fight in those guys,” McNair said. “They never gave up and they believed they could come in and win this game. We talked before the game started and I told them to play this game and walk off the floor like you gave everything you could.”
Arnette and Caulder led a third-quarter scoring spurt from Fairmont that put a double-digit lead in its favor that Whiteville wasn’t able to chip into farther than seven points. Caulder’s 3-pointer with 3:30 left in the third broke a 34-34 tie, and Arnette followed by scoring six of his team-best 21 points in a 13-3 run that made it 47-37 with less than a minute left in the period.
Guarding Whiteville’s Tyrell Kirk 94 feet the whole game, Arnette also made his impact felt on the defensive side with eight steals. Much like McNair thinks as a coach, Arnette’s game plan had defense as top priority.
“Coach just told me to keep my intensity up on defense and told me not to worry about the score, but just try to lock him down and contain him,” Arnette said.
In the first quarter, both teams showed no signs of fatigue after playing the night before with a fast-paced quarter than Whiteville led 20-16 at then end of. Arnette and Kirk each fueled their teams with their scores on drives to the basket in the first with Arnette scoring 12 and Kirk having eight in the first eight minutes. Kirk had a game-high 22 points.
After the opening quarter, Fairmont held Whiteville to under 13 points in each of the final three quarters.
“We cut a lot of transitions because they got a lot of transition points. In that 20 points, 10 of it was probably in transition,” McNair said.
Looking ahead, Whiteville has three games left at home against East Columbus tomorrow, and then on the road at South Columbus and South Robeson the following week — three middle of the pack teams in the conference. On the other side, Fairmont travels to Red Springs tomorrow. Next week another three games in five days stretch hits the Golden Tornadoes, closing at home against St. Pauls next Friday where conference title implication could be on the line.
“We’ve got to stay focused and take it one game at a time,” McNair said. “Before it got started this year I knew it would be tough this year. It’s just showing what kind of talent we have and the heart that they play with.”
Jonathan Bym can be reached at 910-816-1977. Follow him on Twitter @Jonathan_Bym.