FAIRMONT — The Fairmont boys basketball team saw two versions of Derrick Arnette on Tuesday night against Whiteville.
In the first half, it was Arnette the Shooter.
In the second half, it was Arnette the Aggressor.
Golden Tornadoes coach Montrell McNair preferred the latter. With Fairmont trailing by three points at halftime, McNair told his senior guard to “get more aggressive and stop settling.”
Arnette listened, scoring 16 of his game-high 23 points in the second half to lead Fairmont to a 65-60 victory over the Wolfpack.
“Coach (McNair) told me to attack and stop settling. I was settling for too many 3s in the first half,” said Arnette, who scored six baskets in the paint and drained four free throws after the break.
“He told me to keep driving so I kept doing it. When I saw they couldn’t stop me from going, I kept going.”
With the Golden Tornadoes (5-0, 3-0 TRC) trailing by seven points early in the fourth quarter, Arnette — who also logged six steals and five assists — became the aggressor with a pair of layups to spark a 17-5 run to close the game.
“We did too much settling and less attacking (in the first half). The more we attack, the more it opens up shots for (Derrick’s) teammates and him,” McNair said.
“You can’t just come out jacking up shots. I tell him that all the time in practice — stay in attack mode.”
In a battle of teams that shared the Three Rivers Conference’s regular-season crown last season, the Wolfpack (3-1, 3-1 TRC) was the aggressor out of the gate.
Whiteville led by as many as 11 points in the first half, using a 16-8 first quarter to take the early advantage. Fairmont started chipping away in the second quarter when Malik Arnette entered the game. He sparked an 8-0 spurt with a layup in transition and put back layup seconds later.
“(Malik) played hard-nosed. He was solid and refused to give up,” McNair said. “. … We needed that at the time with Corry (Addison) being in foul trouble. We needed him to step up defensively.”
After a Whiteville technical foul, the Golden Tornadoes capped the half with a 5-0 run to trim the deficit to 33-30 at the break. Brent McDonald drained a 3-pointer as time expired.
Malik, who finished with nine points and five steals, was ready for his moment. His aggression helped the Golden Tornadoes turn up the pressure in the second half to finish the game with 22 steals.
“(McNair) told me to come off the bench with some pressure and play hard,” he said. “I just knew I could bring energy out there. He told us at halftime to come out and play hard, and it would be our game.”
With the game tied at 57-all, Malik made a layup to give Fairmont the lead for good with 4:08 left to play. The Arnette duo used free throws to keep Whiteville at bay in the final minutes.
Sidney McKeithan also gave Fairmont a boost, scoring all nine of his points in the second half and pulling down 15 rebounds. Addison, who struggled with foul trouble for most of the night and fouled out with 1:45 left to play, scored just one point but logged five assists and five steals.
Jatiek Martin scored 19 points to lead a trio of Whiteville players in double figures. Cam Richardson talled 12 points and Bradley Pridgen added 10.
“It was a great matchup,” McNair said. “(Whiteville) came in and gave us everything they had. They wanted it and we wanted it, too. That was a good test for us early in the season. Moving forward, that’s going to be something to build on. It was a classic.”
Fairmont will return to action on Friday when it travels to East Bladen.
Lady Tornadoes fall in final seconds
Jazmin Faison made a layup with nine seconds left, lifting Whiteville to a 51-49 victory over the Fairmont girls basketball team on Tuesday night.
Kiara Page logged a double-double with 16 points and 13 rebounds to lead the Lady Tornadoes (4-2, 3-1 TRC), who were outscored 16-11 in the final period. Page finished two assists shy of a triple-double.
Mya Bellamy added 11 points for Fairmont, which led 26-25 at the half.
Nsaia Rogers scored a game-high 17 points, including four 3-pointers, to lead the Lady Wolfpack (4-2, 3-1). Whiteville closed the game with an 11-3 run. Breanna McCellon tallied 14 points.
Rodd Baxley can be reached at 910-416-5182 and email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @RoddBaxley.