Word had been passed through the locker room that East Columbus had ended Fairmont’s lengthy winning streak and the Bulldogs were in the thick of tings in the Three Rivers Conference. Gilchrist cracked a smile at his coach Travis Lemanksi and immediately shifted his focus to the Golden Tornadoes, Friday’s opponent on the road.
“Wow, how many did they lose by? That upset lets us know we can play with them,” Gilchrist said after scoring 15 points and handing out six assists. “We beat East Columbus twice already and could’ve beat Fairmont here a few weeks ago. We’re ready to see them again.”
Getting to Friday’s showdown was the hard part according to Lemanksi. St. Pauls (16-6, 8-1) squeaked out wins over East Columbus and Red Springs then fought off the Vikings on the road and beat South Robeson before completing the goal on Tuesday.
“We didn’t look past anyone and took every game one by one,” Lemanksi said. “We ha no other choice. We wanted the last game of the season to mean something. If we went to Fairmont in third place, it wouldn’t have meant anything.”
St. Pauls jumped out to a double-digit lead in the first half in the home finale after starting the second quarter on a 14-3 run. The Bulldogs led by as many 19 in the second half before West Columbus pulled within seven with 6:58 left to play. That’s as close as the Vikings would get as St. Pauls continued its full-court pressure onslaught and forced several turnovers the rest of the way.
“We found something there in the first half that we thought we could exploit,” Lemanski said. “We just told Jacquell (Johnson) and Kane (Banner) to keep looking for passes over the top. We tried to score a lot in transition. That’s our best offense.”
Banner led St. Pauls with 16 points and 12 rebounds. Anthony Davis poured in 18 for West Columbus.
Fairmont’s league streak ends at 37
LAKE WACCAMAW — The streak is over. Fairmont’s three-year reign of running through the Three Rivers Conference without a defeat ended Tuesday night at East Columbus as the Gators upended the perennial favorites, 59-55.
Fairmont (19-4, 8-1) had won 37 consecutive games against teams from the Three Rivers and 15 straight overall this season since a Robeson County Shootout loss in December. The Golden Tornadoes led by as many as 13 in the first half before East Columbus rallied behind the play of Elijah Gresham and Marquise King.
Fairmont trailed by nine points with 1:57 to play and trimmed the deficit to two at one point, but couldn’t convert with possession. Kwinton Hinson was the only Fairmont player in double figures with 29 points.
“We missed a lot of easy shots,” Fairmont coach Michael Baker said. “We didn’t shoot the ball well and they out-rebounded us. We allowed them to get too close to rim all night.”
Lumberton keeps playoff hopes alive
LUMBERTON — A state playoff berth is pretty clear cut for the Lumberton Pirates.
Facing a must-win game Tuesday at home against Scotland, the Pirates came through with an intense effort on defense, 64-53. Demetri Sheridan’s double-double of 16 points and 11 rebounds helped Lumberton jump ahead by 11 points at intermission.
“We did a good job of hitting the boards and playing with a do-or-die mindset,” Lumberton coach Mackey Register said. The Pirates (8-14, 3-6) travel to Purnell Swett on Friday. The Rams (3-17, 1-8) fell at home to Hoke on Tuesday, 96-51.