FAIRMONT — With the expectations of a tightly-contested game among two of the top teams in the boys Three Rivers Conference standings, Tuesday’s 69-48 win for Fairmont at home over Red Springs quickly fell short of those hopes after the Golden Tornadoes took control from the get-go.
As the Fairmont (11-1, 6-1 TRC) defense locked in to fuel its offense, frustration mounted for Red Springs (9-3, 6-1 TRC) with players’ heads starting to dip early, leading to the Red Devils’ 24th straight loss in the series to Fairmont.
“They came out focused and were in lockdown mode to contain their ball-handlers,” Fairmont coach Montrell McNair said. “I feel like we came out and held our own defensively. We let other teams know we are playing a lot better.”
Red Springs’ first-quarter struggles were visible by a single digit on the scoreboard after the first eight minutes of play as its offense went the first 4 1/2 minutes without a point and nearly the whole period without making a shot from the floor to go down 16-4 to Fairmont.
“We were out of sync and just didn’t come out to play,” Red Springs coach Glenn Patterson said. “From the first quarter and 13 points at the half, that’s terrible.”
The lead grew to as much as 24 in the second quarter and as much as 30 in the third quarter.
To go along with the defensive effort from Fairmont causing problems for Red Springs, its two leading scorers were held quiet on the offensive end. Senior guards Monte’ Wilkerson and Caleel Mitchell were held to nine points, five of which came from Mitchell. The duo came into the game averaging a combined 31 points per game.
One part of the force slowing down the Red Devils’ offensive leaders was Fairmont’s Corry Addison, who recorded a double-double of 18 points and 10 steals.
“It was hard-nose defense from start to finish,” he said. “We did a good job as a team of playing excellent team defense.”
The goal for Addison and the Golden Tornadoes was to keep pace with Red Springs and West Columbus near the top of the conference standing, after both teams entered the night undefeated in league play.
“We knew that if we lost this game, we would be two games behind in the conference so we came out with a lot of energy,” Addison said. “I feel like we played like we had a chip on our shoulder.”
After holding Red Springs to 13 first-half points, McNair’s team showed no signs of rust defensively from the time off, and played the team defense that he asks his team to bring night in and night out. He knows that defense is what his team will need when it comes to postseason time, and Tuesday’s meeting was against a team capable of making noise in the conference and state tournaments.
“It wasn’t one or two players playing defense, it was a team effort,” McNair said. “That defense led to some offense and tonight it helped it out a lot. If we are going to make a run in not just the playoffs, but in the conference, we have to do that on a nightly basis.”
With Wilkerson and Mitchell falling short of carrying their normal offensive scoring loads, senior Jerry McDowell led the Red Devils with 15 points, 11 of which came in the fourth quarter. Seniors Jerome Bass, with nine points, and Nichorie West with seven also picked up the slack for Red Springs, but Patterson knows that his senior group as a whole has to bring its best scoring every night this season.
“I got veterans that didn’t give it to me,” he said. “We’ve got to get those guys regrouped.”
To go along with Addison’ double-double, Derrick Arnette added 14 points and Sidney McKeithan had 11 for Fairmont.
Lady Devils drop first TRC game to Fairmont
Fairmont girls basketball coach Richard Mitchell will admit he’s not like most coaches that scout teams, but he did pick up a lesson from his team’s first meeting in the Robeson County Shootout to Red Springs that he used in the rematch on Tuesday.
“I learned from the last game and I didn’t get how one person could just dominate five people,” he said of Red Springs’ Taya Jones. “I figured out (Tuesday) that if we could stop that one person and make someone else beat us we would have a better chance. I did it before, so we put two people on her and if she beats us with two people then she deserves to beat us.”
By double-teaming Red Springs’ leading scorer, and senior Kiara Page posting a double-double, Fairmont handed the Lady Red Devils their first conference loss of the year in a 69-55 home win.
Red Springs (8-4, 6-1 TRC) and Fairmont (6-6, 4-2 TRC) kept the score close for much of the first half, and the Lady Golden Tornadoes took a 39-36 lead into the half, but the third quarter was all Fairmont.
Page scored nine of her 37 in the third quarter as the lead went to as much as 18 in the period with Red Springs going five minutes without a basket. Page added 14 rebounds for the game, and teammate Mya Bellamy had 10 points and 10 rebounds.
Taya Jones finished with 24 points to lead Red Springs.
Jonathan Bym can be reached at 910-816-1977 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Jonathan_Bym.