FAIRMONT — Jarique Moore and Julius Caulder have been staples for the Fairmont boys basketball team over the past three years and the pair made sure that Thursday night wasn’t the last time they dribbled a ball in a Fairmont uniform.
Caulder crashed the boards and Moore provided a few of his well-known sparkplug dunks to guide the Golden Tornadoes over North Pitt, 72-52, in the second round of the NCHSAA 2A state playoffs to keep a streak going that has been going far before their time. In keeping the six-year streak of Fairmont making an appearance in the third round, the seniors also kept their basketball careers going for at least one more game as they advanced to take on No. 2 Northside-Jacksonville on the road Saturday.
“Tonight, I just thought they played with the attitude that they didn’t want to lose this game. They didn’t want it to end here,” said Fairmont coach Montrell McNair of his two starting seniors. “I felt like they gave everything they had tonight.”
Right from the start of the game, Caulder was active all over the floor, especially the boards, as No. 5 Fairmont (25-4) built a 19-6 lead in the first quarter behind seven points from its senior captain. He carried his offense over into the second quarter as he chipped in five points late to lead the Golden Tornadoes to a 36-22 halftime lead.
“I was just trying to go up and get every defensive rebound that I could and try to start the fast break off because we’re a running team. If I get the ball in my hands, that gets the fast break going even faster,” Caulder said. “We’re counting down (to the championship). We’ve got two down and four more to go. It’s very important to keep moving on.”
Caulder finished with 16 points and 16 rebounds with a lot of his work coming in the second half with 12 points and 11 rebounds coming before halftime.
“I just saw a lot of fight, no quit and battle. That’s what he’s been doing all year,” McNair said of Caulder. “It just wasn’t tonight, he’s been doing it all year. He’s the player we need. That’s our MVP.”
While Caulder ruled the first half and carried over the energy into the second half, Moore provided three of his patented momentum-changing dunks in the third quarter with the game hanging in the balance.
No. 11 North Pitt (19-10) trimmed a once 21-point Fairmont lead down to 45-36 with 2:50 left in the quarter on a Phillip Boykin layup. From there, the high-flyer for the Golden Tornadoes took over. He scored the next eight for Fairmont, six by way of the dunk. After throwing down the first two, Moore went back on the defensive end and slapped the floor before snatching a steal and rising up for another slam.
This came after McNair challenged Moore at the half on defense after he felt like Moore was, “taking plays off defensively.”
“I told him ‘you can’t take plays off as a senior because you never know when you will get to play again,’” McNair said.
The eight straight points from Moore was a part of the 22-1 run to close the frame and propel Fairmont into the third round. Moore finished with 16 points and his defense in the second half led the defensive unit in an inspired effort.
“I just knew it was over,” Moore said of that stretch where he came alive.”I knew it was a win or go home situation so I knew I had to leave it out there on the floor. If I didn’t play defensive, then I would be thinking in my head that it’s my fault so I wanted to step up and be the leader on defense.”
No further can the defensive effort on the night be seen than from Derrick Arnette’s defensive play on North Pitt’s Devonte Pettaway, who entered the game on a tear. Arnette drew the tough defensive duty of the opponents best scorer, pitting him against Pettaway, fresh off a 35-point performance against Red Springs in the first round. And like the junior guard had done all season, his tough defense with little breathing room held Pettaway to nine points.
“I’ve got to give Derrick his due because he did a great job on the kid that’s averaging 30 points per game,” McNair said.
Getting to the third round of the playoffs is not just what the Golden Tornadoes do, but all its players have known during their high school careers. Caulder and Moore don’t take it for granted, but rather see it as their way to protect the legacy of the program.
“To be a part of a program like this is pretty special,” Caulder said. “It’s not done everywhere.”
“I just want to keep the tradition alive,” Moore said.
Junior forward Sidney McKeithan led all scorers with 17 points after an eight-point fourth quarter for the Golden Tornadoes. North Pitt was led by Zaquarius Sherred-Wilson with 15 points.
Jonathan Bym can be reached at 910-816-1977. Follow him on Twitter @Jonathan_Bym.