First Posted: 1/15/2009
ST. PAULS - First the Boston Red Sox, now the Fairmont High School girls basketball team.
For years, the Lady Tornadoes have played second fiddle to the Red Springs girls basketball team, to the tune of watching the Lady Red Devils win 63 Tri-Six Cconference games in a row and four consecutive tournament championships.
All that came to end Friday when Fairmont beat Red Springs, 38-36, at St. Pauls High School to capture its first Tri-Six Conference Tournament title.
“The monkey is off our backs,'' said Fairmont senior Gini Grimsley, who had never beaten Red Springs as a high school basketball player. “That was one of mine's, Shante's (McNair) and Savannah's (Jones) goals. We finally accomplished it.''
“Every streak is broken. Now, we just have to start another one,” Red Springs coach Eva Patterson-Heath said.
Both squads must now prepare for the Class 2-A state tournament, which starts Tuesday.
Fairmont, 19-6, will open play Tuesday against the No. 4 seed from the Northern Carolina Conference. Red Springs, 16-6, has a first-round bye and will play Thursday.
But for now, the Lady Tornadoes can bask in the glow of a victory that was four years in the making.
“Tonight we played with heart,'' Fairmont coach Travis Kemp said.
While not the most artistic contest, it more than made up for it with drama, particularly in the final minute.
With the score tied at 33, Fairmont's Monique Floyd drove the lane and scored in the paint to give the Tornadoes a 35-33 lead with 47.6 seconds remaining in the game.
Twenty seconds later on the ensuing possession, Red Springs freshman Amanda Sinclair calmly drained a 3-pointer to give the Red Devils a 36-35 lead.
But Floyd and Fairmont wouldn't be denied.
After taking the inbound pass, Floyd, who scored a game-high 16 points and seven of those in the fourth quarter, dribbled the length of the floor, scored the basket and was fouled.
“As I was dribbling down, the lane got wider and wider,'' Floyd said. “I just went ahead and took it in.''
Floyd missed the free throw, but got her own rebound, was fouled again and this time made one of two free throws to give Fairmont a 38-36 lead.
Red Springs got off a shot, but it wasn't by Shemia Campbell, the player who hit a last-second shot earlier this season to beat Fairmont by two. Freshman Kristen Oxendine's shot was off the mark with one second left and, appropriately, it was Floyd who grabbed the rebound to secure the historic victory.
“The key to tonight was we played with heart,'' said Floyd, who also grabbed seven rebounds. “This is a wonderful feeling. We knew we could beat them.''
Both teams shot the ball terribly, but Red Springs contributed to its demise by turning the ball over 24 times - eight in the fourth quarter.
The Lady Red Devils also played a large portion of the second half without starting center Danyelle Carter, who scored 13 points. Carter picked up her fourth foul in the third quarter and eventually fouled out with three minutes remaining in the game.
“Carter getting her fifth foul definitely helped us,'' said Kemp, whose club shot a frigid 21 percent from the floor, but outscored Red Springs 13-4 at the free throw line.
“But we went back to the basics. We said we were going to do what we do best, and if they beat us, they'll beat us at what we do. We missed some shots, but we covered it at the other end (defensively).''
Neither team could get much going offensively. Red Springs missed 39 of 54 shots and was 1-for-14 from 3-point territory. Fairmont didn't shoot much better, missing 38 of 48 shots, but the Tornadoes turned the ball over only nine times.