FAIRMONT — Nearly two weeks after tipoff, the only fitting way for the meeting between the Fairmont and West Columbus boys basketball teams to end was with a few periods of free basketball on Monday at Fairmont.
In a game that started on Dec. 5 and was postponed 13 days due to a scoreboard malfunction in the second quarter, three overtimes were needed in the matchup of two Three Rivers Conference heavyweights, which the Vikings outlasted three game-winning chances from Fairmont to win 84-75.
At the end of regulation, the first overtime and the second overtime, Fairmont (6-1, 4-1 TRC) found itself where it wanted — the game tied with the clock ticking down and the ball in its hands. And each time the Golden Tornadoes went for the win, it settled for shot attempts that hit the rim and couldn’t fall. With two made 3-pointers on more than 15 attempts in the game, Fairmont coach Montrell McNair said his team’s shot selection wasn’t the best at times.
“It wasn’t good shot selection, but that is something we’ve got to build on,” McNair said. “We have seniors that you would think late in the game they normally take the right shots, but our shot selection wasn’t good.
“That put us in a situation where we have to fight in every game we play in. Like I said before, our conference is loaded, it’s tough from top to bottom.”
The loss is the first conference loss for Fairmont since falling at St. Pauls on Jan. 13 during last season, snapping a 16-game conference win streak.
In regulation, Fairmont found itself playing catch-up to West Columbus (8-0, 5-0 TRC) over the 2 1/2 quarters after the contest that restarted with the Vikings leading 24-21 with 3:36 left in the second quarter. For the first time since Dec. 5, Fairmont led the Vikings after back-to-back buckets from Nalijha Pittman gave it a 57-55 lead in the final three minutes. The Vikings’ Deontay Bromell tied the game on the next trip down at 57-all, and then Fairmont held for the last shot.
Spreading the floor into a “four corners” look, the Golden Tornadoes held for the final shot that was taken by Derrick Arnette with seconds remaining from behind the 3-point arc that didn’t fall. Arnette had the shot at the end of the first overtime that wouldn’t fall as well when he drove into the teeth of the Vikings defense for a jumper from the elbow that was off the mark.
Arnette scored 20 points and had five assists. Fellow senior guard Corry Addison chipped in 18 points, 10 steals , seven rebounds and five assists. While the pair played a big part in keeping Fairmont in the game late in regulation and in overtime, McNair saw his two seniors start to bring that extra burst with their play that he likes to see.
“They showed a little of the killer instinct I want them to have,” McNair said. “They had the will to win and they didn’t want to lose that game.”
The third and final chance Fairmont had at winning the game came in the second overtime when a drive by Addison found an open Malik Arnette, whose 15-foot jumper from the baseline was long and sent the game to the final overtime stanza.
Fairmont was down three post players in overtime as Nalijha and Kaheem Pittman, along with Sidney McKeithan fouled out. With four guards and Jordan Waters the lone post player for Fairmont, West Columbus attacked behind the play of Jake Brownlee. The senior forward for the Vikings had a game-high 28 points and 28 rebounds against the under-sized Golden Tornadoes, scoring eight after regulation.
“That hurt a lot. That changed the flow of the game,” McNair said of the foul outs from his forwards. “Jordan came in and did his job. When I called his number, Jordan came in and did what he was supposed to do. That’s step in and fill in defensively and pull some boards, that’s his job.”
It wasn’t until Waters went out with an injury he suffered after a hard fall early in the third period that West Columbus was able to put space between the teams. Brownlee that provided the dagger with a one-handed slam on a run-out to make it 80-72 with 1:10 remaining.
Along with Brownlee in the post, Bromell had 15 points and 14 rebounds and Kevon Lewis had 13 points and 11 rebounds.
Fairmont opens Robeson County Shootout play tomorrow with a doubleheader at home against Lake View starting at 6 p.m.
Jonathan Bym can be reached at 910-816-1977 or by email at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @Jonathan_Bym.