The third-seeded Golden Tornadoes trailed the Wolfpack by 19 points, largely due to a lack of rebounding and an inability to finish shots. And when the team met in the locker room, coach Michael Baker wrote one word on the dry-erase board: “Solid.”
“If you have adversity, you need to stop digging yourself into the hole by being solid,” Baker said. “You’ve got to do the right thing on both ends: you’ve got to put the extra effort in on the offensive end, you’ve got to put the extra effort on the defensive end.”
The goal was to pull within 10 by the fourth quarter, but Baker’s team did him one better, outscoring the opposition 28-11 in the third to trim the deficit to two. Fairmont took its first lead of the contest 50 seconds into the fourth quarter.
From there, the lead changed several times down the stretch before Shemar Barfield's 3-pointer with 19 seconds remaining — Fairmont's only made long-distance jumper of the contest — put the Golden Tornadoes ahead to stay at 61-59. Jackie Oxendine added two late free throws to seal the victory.
The win pushes Fairmont into Friday's 2A sectional final at home against Clinton.
“We got offensive rebounds, we got steals, we made the good plays, looked for the right person and stopped digging ourselves into holes," Baker said. "We stopped digging and became solid. We started doing things right."
Fairmont's second-half comeback was a result of renewed attention to fundamentals. Early on, as Whiteville opened the game on a 10-1 run, the Wolfpack used the size of John Lee Willis to their advantage. Willis stood under the basket and grabbed rebounds for second-chance points.
By halftime, no Fairmont player had more than five points and the team was 5-for-12 from the free-throw line.
Then, something changed after the break.
Offensively, Fairmont found its offensive groove from junior guard Shemar Barfield.
Barfield opened the half by being fouled on a layup, hitting both free throws. Jarrod Neal then hit two layups to narrow the lead to 36-23 with 6:25 left.
Kwinton Hinson then hit a free throw, which was followed by two layups from Barfield to get the deficit to 10. After two free throws from Whiteville, Barfield had a 3-point play to make it 40-31 with 5:40 left.
The Golden Tornadoes then ended the quarter on a 14-2 run, largely behind Luke Hunt and Charlton Townsend. Two free throws from Hinton left Fairmont trailing 47-45 entering the fourth.
Fairmont continued rolling, getting six points in the first 1:01 of the fourth. Townsend triggered the run with a putback and Hunt followed with a layup at the 7:10 mark to put Fairmont up 49-47, the team’s first lead of the game.
Whiteville responded over the next few possessions and used a fastbreak from Anthony Watson to lead 55-54 with 3:08 left. Shawn Kirk's layup with 1:21 remaining was Whiteville's final bucket of the contest and it gave the Wolfpack a 59-58 lead.
Barfield and Townsend led Fairmont with 16 points each.