Fairmont’s regional bracket includes defending 2A champ Kinston, Bunn and Jacksonville Northside. How strong is this grouping compared to others?
It’s a great bracket with a lot of tradition and that’s including Fairmont. You’re talking about four schools with a lot of talent. I remember way back when, we used to always have to get through Bunn to make it to regionals. They knocked us out in the third round one year, then we knocked them out the next. Look at Kinston. Who doesn’t know about Kinston. When we won it back in 1994, Kinston was a 4A school. They had Jerry Stackhouse and he wasn’t the only one they had. Jacksonville Northside is a fairly new school,but everyone knows that area has good athletes. I’m just glad to be here in the final four in our area.
It’s been almost 20 years since you last appeared in regionals. How has it changed since the last time you were here?
Let me clarify this. This is the first time in 20 years that the men have been here, but I came with the girls in 2005. I took over for a coach that decided to step down three games into the season. We had Monique Floyd and a few others.It hasn’t changed much. You’re still playing the best teams in the state over what is hopefully a two-game stretch. Every team here this week is a good team.
What are your thoughts on playing locally versus heading back to Greenville where you’ve gone several times?
I’m glad it’s in Fayetteville. It gives more of our fans an opportunity to come. Greenville was always a ride for us. Iwas rooting for Fayetteville the whole time to get it (three years ago). We made that trip to Greenville three years in a row in the early 90s and it was hard on the fans and people that support us. We lost to Ayden-Grifton the first year then East Carteret. We won that third year against Whiteville. All of Fairmont’s regional games have been close since I’ve been coaching. Hopefully, this year’s team, knowing it’s in Fayetteville again next year, can build some confidence and expect to get back. It’s the regionals and you’ve got to win two to get out of here and play for the state.
This 2013 senior class for Fairmont has won 67 games over the last three seasons. How important is the play of those guys this week?
I’m going to mention that this group right here has played together since the eighth grade at Orrum. Orrum won that eighth grade year with Luke (Hunt) then Fairmont won the next two. These guys could have gone to Lumberton, maybe a few of them did, but most stayed here and are now the best of friends. When you see Luke, you see Chaut (Charlton Townsend) and Jackie (Oxendine). They would give the clothes off each other’s back and they have. This is one of those close-knit senior classes. When we were down against Whiteville, I asked those guys if this was how they wanted to go out. They’ve been known to be winners throughout their careers, so I challenged them. Chaut even made the comment that “if we lose, let me go out on the floor. I don’t want to be on the sideline.” He wanted to be with his teammates.
It says a lot about your team to overcome a 19-point halftime deficit to win in the second round, then beat your sectional final opponent by 28 points. Take me through that.
We learned a lot about ourselves. Against Whiteville, it was a combination of every player getting up the floor and crashing the boards after looking at the tape. Luke and Chault are two similar players, but we don’t want to have to play those guys too much at the same time. That’s not the way we want to play. We’re better off having one of those guys sitting, while the other is on the floor. They’re better with rest. We can stick them in for a minute or two, but we need that constant speed and defensive intensity. With Shemar (Barfield) healthy, he gives us that defensive mindset. He didn’t have that last year. We were pulling hairs last year trying to get Shemar to play defense, but this year he has played great defense. I’ve been very pleased with our last six quarters of basketball.
Sophomore Kwinton Hinson has been a great addition to your team averaging 21.5 points per game. What kind of influence has he had on Fairmont’s success?
As you know, I coached his Dad in the 90s, so when I heard he was moving here from Las Vegas to play at Fairmont, I was fine with that. He’s a guy that can play the game and play it well. He knows where he is supposed to be on the court. He’s one of many players we have that needs to play well Thursday night.
What must go right for your team to beat Jacksonville Northside (Thursday) and win on Saturday to reach the state championship game in Chapel Hill?
First of all, it’ll take a total team effort. We can’t have one or two guys doing this and the other guys doing that. We’ve got to have a bench. Jaquan (McRae) and Kevin (Frierson) must play well. We need that 9- or 10-man rotation to do its part. We can’t get in the habit of not running plays. We’re going to push it up court, but we also have to understand there will be a time where we have to run stuff in the halfcourt offense. We can run all day, but the question is, are we making anything? We have to get stops and make shots. There have been times this season where we haven’t made shots. On any night, you can get your behind beat if you don’t execute.