ST. PAULS — The Fairmont boys basketball team grew up on Friday night at St. Pauls according to coach Montrell McNair, who saw the maturation process of his team hit in the second half of its 77-61 win.
Despite starting four seniors and a junior, with much of the team being upperclassmen, Fairmont (4-0, 2-0 TRC) growth came as players started to fill into roles that they haven’t had in the past. Leading the Golden Tornadoes’ growth was its two senior guards that are used to the roles they are playing, and did so in the second half to lead them to their 14th consecutive Three Rivers Conference win that dated back to January’s loss at St. Pauls.
“I saw a lot of growing up from some of my underclassmen. My juniors stepped up and my seniors finally came and played the game the way they are supposed to play it,” McNair said. “Corry Addison had 10 steals and Derrick Arnette had 10 assists. That’s what you expect from senior leadership, and you expect those kind of stats.”
St. Pauls (3-3, 2-1 TRC) hung tight for much of the game, never letting Fairmont get its lead to outside of 11 points in the first three quarters, but then the Golden Tornadoes kicked theirself into gear for the final five minutes.
To get the momentum going for the closing run, it took a spark. Derrick Arnette delivered that when he followed up a missed shot that was pulled down by St. Pauls’ Romeo Jordan by knocking it free into the hands of Kaheem Pittman for a layup, putting Fairmont ahead 59-50. From there, St. Pauls went on a five-minute drought without a made field goal, and the Golden Tornadoes turned that into a 14-point lead with time running short.
“I missed the shot my shot and followed my rebound. He was just standing there trying to be slow so I went behind him and stripped it,” Arnette said of the play. “Coach said he wanted us to keep the intensity up on defense.”
Arnette scored 15 points and had 10 assists, Addison added 11 points, 10 rebounds and six rebounds. Addison was hampered to four first-half points due to foul trouble, opened up in the second half with seven points and several plays on the defensive end.
“I just told him to keep his confidence up. I told him to keep attacking because they couldn’t stop him if he kept attacking,” Arnette said of Addison.
While it was the senior guard play that was what put the Bulldogs away, free-throw shooting was one reason they weren’t able to keep things closer for longer in the game. As a team, St. Pauls went 11-of-35 from the foul line, including 4-for-24 in the first three quarters. Coach Corey Thompson credited fatigue that was brought on by Fairmont’s full-court press as to why his team struggled in the game.
“We were fatigued, we had some guys get into foul trouble early and the fatigue wore us down,” he said. “We had to play some different guys in different positions and rotations and stuff was a little off. They had to play a little longer and going the full length of the floor of course you’re going to get fatigued.”
With the Fairmont guards picking up their play in the fourth quarter, junior forward Kaheem Pittman was a direct benefactor of their play. Along with being on the scoring end of the Arnette strip with five minutes to go to start the late spurt, he also ran the floor to give himself scoring opportunities.
Arnette lobbed a pass to the forward with three minutes left to push the lead out to 10 points, and then he scored on back-to-back possession with less than 2:30 left to take the Golden Tornadoes’ lead out to 17 points. He finished with 16 points and his brother Nalijha had 13.
“I thought they answered the bell because St. Pauls fought really hard. We had to stand up in the fourth quarter and it was about who wanted it more,” McNair said. “In the fourth quarter, we wanted it more.”
St. Pauls was led by Aaron Revels with 17 points and Romeo Jordan with 15 points.
Fairmont returns home to host Whiteville on Tuesday and St. Pauls goes to South Columbus.
Page’s triple-double guide Fairmont to win
Senior forward Kiara Page tallied her first triple-double of the season as the Fairmont girls basketball team topped St. Pauls, 55-26.
St. Pauls (3-3, 2-1 TRC) was held scoreless in the first quarter by Fairmont (4-1, 3-0 TRC) as the visitors built a 15-0 lead after the first period. Page finished with 20 points, 20 rebounds and 11 assists with seven steals. Krishay Moore added 11 points for Fairmont.
St. Pauls’ T.J. Eichelberger had 12 points for the Lady Bulldogs.
Jonathan Bym can be reached at 910-816-1977 or by email at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @Jonathan_Bym.