Fairmont basketball fans have plenty to look forward to this season if Tuesday’s game at Hoke is a sign of things to come for one of Michael Baker’s deepest, most talented teams in recent memory.
Rarely does a season opener feature two state championship contender from varying classifications, but the Bucks and Golden Tornadoes battled back and forth with long distance jumpers and memorable slams before Hoke pulled away for an 84-71 win.
“The effort was there and we got after them,” Fairmont coach Michael Baker said. “Hoke’s got a great basketball team with a lot of returners. We’re getting there, but have a lot to work on.”
The Bucks, led by undeclared Division I prospect Tarique Thompson, won the 4A Southeastern Conference last season and advanced to the regional round in the state playoffs. Fairmont, a Top 5 mainstay in the 2A ranks the last few years, is coming off a 23-win season.
“Coaching against someone like Michael is incredible,” Hoke coach Quame Patterson said. “His guys are always very well-prepared and talented. People look at this game and don’t understand that they’re a 2A team. In basketball, it doesn’t matter. Fairmont’s got talent everywhere.”
Tuesday’s opener included the highly-anticipated debut of Fairmont sophomore forward Kwinton Hinson, a 6-foot-4 athlete with quick hands and soft touch. At one point during a fast-paced third quarter, Hinson and Hoke’s Thompson traded baskets on three straight possessions before the Bucks’ standout senior tomahawked a one-hand slam over Fairmont’s newcomer.
Thompson finished with a game-high 29 and helped Hoke finish off the Golden Tornadoes after the Bucks saw a 17-point lead dwindle to one late in the third quarter. Hinson was equally impressive on the big stage, managing 28 points, a tally that included three 3-pointers and breakaway jam to open the second half.
“He’s nice,” Patterson said of Hinson. “He’s got a great body, great poise and can shoot lights out.”
The Bucks used a length and height advantage in the post to put back several second-chance buckets in the first quarter and built a 16-3 lead during the first five minutes of the contest. Fairmont struggled to contain the inside-outside game of Thompson and guard Tymell Blue in the early going as Hoke built a 14-point lead before intermission.
Blue, with 17 points, was one of five players in double figures for the Bucks. The Golden Tornadoes turned it over 12 times in the first half and missed a handful of shots right under the basket.
“It’s something I’ve stressed all during the offseason … turnovers, turnovers, turnovers,” Baker said. “We did a terrible job at catching the ball tonight.”
With a couple halftime adjustments, the Golden Tornadoes used a 12-2 run midway through the third to get back in the game before Thompson contributed back-to-back jumpers from the baseline.
“I blame myself for the game getting close like that,” Patterson said. “I see a lot of potential in us with our bench, but I needed to stick with the five we normally have in there. We’re so much deeper than we were last year, but I kind of got too excited with our bench.”
The Golden Tornadoes take a three-day holiday break before returning to the floor Tuesday night in a home rematch with the Bucks. Fairmont will be without starting forward Charlton Townsend for a month with a foot injury. Point guard Jackie Oxendine is day-to-day with a sore knee.
Both players attended the game, but did not suit up in Raeford.
Fairmont girls fall without Evans
Fairmont's girls led for all but 45 seconds of Tuesday's opener at Hoke, but unfortunately for the Lady Tornadoes, the remaining ticks were inside the final minute of the fourth quarter. Point guard Anasia Evans, who scored a game-high 24 points, fouled out with just over six minutes to go and Fairmont never was the same offensively during a 49-46 loss.
Hoke took its first lead of the game on the eventual game-winning basket — a steal and layup from Temantae Speller. Fairmont forward Ne'Jewell Ingram got off a potential game-trying shot with eight seconds left but the 3-point try fell short out-of-bounds. Ingram chipped in with 10 points.
BOYS: Hoke 84, Fairmont 71
FMT 14 18 20 19 — 71; HC 24 16 22 22 — 84
Fairmont — Kwinton Hinson 28, Jarrod Neal 16, Barfield 8, Hunt 6, Frierson 6, McRae 3, Hines 2, Watson 2.; Hoke — Tarique Thompson 29, Tymell Blue 17, Jamaal Parker 11, Keshawn Shaw 11, Brennen Wright 10, Harris 4, Jay. Parker 2; 3-Point Goals — FMT: Hinson 3, Neal 2, McRae. HC: Blue 4, Thompson 2, Shaw, Harris; Records — Fairmont 0-1, Hoke 1-0.
GIRLS: Hoke 49, Fairmont 46
FMT 18 8 10 10 — 46; HC 7 12 11 19 — 49
Fairmont — Anasia Evans 24, Na’Jewell Ingram 10, Thorndyke 6, Chavis 4, Jones 2; Hoke — Courtney Pate 14, Smith 9, Horne 8, Pittman 6, Speller 6, Dawson 4, Peterkin 2; 3-Point Goals — FMT: Evans. HC — Pate 2, Smith; Fouled Out — FMT: Evans; Technicals — Hoke scorer’s table; Records — Fairmont 0-1, Hoke 1-0.