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The fourth 2017-18 varsity boys basketball clash between archrivals Fike and Hunt will arguably be documented as the one that should not have been played.
But with two teams with everything to gain, the reluctance to compete was no issue as the Golden Demons registered an entertaining 73-58 triumph Friday night in Fike’s gym.
Both teams learned late Thursday afternoon they would be colliding again Friday if the Warriors claimed Thursday night’s regular-season finale in the Hunt gym in which the Warriors pulled out a 56-55 thriller.
Thus, in the interest of seedings for next week’s North Carolina High School Athletic Association 3-A playoffs, Fike and Hunt tangled for a fourth time to break a fourth-place tie in the Big East Conference standings.
“Winning tonight, I definitely think we deserve to be in (the playoffs),” expressed Fike head coach Brent Secrest. “But if we hadn’t won, I don’t think we would have gotten in. Until tonight, we were maybe the No. 32 (final) seed.”
The Demons gained a split in the four games by pulling away with a torrid third-quarter effort.
As was the situation the previous evening, Fike entered the final quarter with a 12-point lead. But, this time, Hunt would draw no closer than seven points, completing its season with a 7-16 record.
The Demons hope to advance with a 11-13 mark.
“I felt really good after (Thursday) night,” said Hunt head coach Wayne Hardy. “But I told the guys that I thought, at times, Fike wanted it a little more. When it came close to end, we didn’t have a whole lot left.”
Tell-tale factors included Fike outscoring the Warriors 21-3 from 3-point range and knocking down 22 of 34 free throws as compared to 15 of 27 for Hunt. The Warriors emerged a 36-32 rebounding victor and committed just eight turnovers as compared to 12 for Fike.
The edge became more decisive for Fike with the emergence of 6-foot-6 junior Caleb Brayboy in the third quarter. Brayboy, off the bench, asserted his presence with his rebounding, scoring and passing. He enjoyed a career night with 11 points, six rebounds and five assists.
“What a night to show up!” Secrest exclaimed, “with his rebounding, putting the ball in and making good passes. We also know he can shoot the 3 — and we want him to shoot it.”
“Caleb did fantastic,” added sophomore Trevon Atkinson, who jump-started the Demons with 11 first-half points. “He got a lot of rebounds and putbacks; he really came through for us.”
Atkinson finished with 14 points, while 6-3 sophomore Moses Parker contributed a double-double of 15 points and 11 rebounds. Junior guard Elijahwon Cooper paced Fike with 18 points, including a trio of 3-pointers in the third quarter.
Seniors Javion Farmer and Jameson Lucas each amassed 19 points and seven rebounds for Hunt. Junior Zion May claimed 12 rebounds and had seven points. Hunt careers ended for Farmer, Lucas and Laquan Rasberry.
“I thought we were ready,” May remarked, “but, at the end, the energy wasn’t there. We wanted to play. It’s a rivalry game that you like to win and we were expecting great things.”
But Hardy contended his Warriors missed too many “crippies” or “bunnies” (easy shots).
The first quarter produced three lead changes and five ties before Fike’s Dashon Horne drained a pair of 3-point shots to give Fike an 18-13 margin. Lucas poured in 11 of Hunt’s points.
The Demons, in the second quarter, stretched the lead to 21-13 on senior Jayvon Green’s trey. However, Shaq Wade rallied Hunt to within 28-27 before Fike headed into intermission with a 30-27 advantage.
Fike’s lead reached 10 points for the first time at 45-35 on Cooper’s 3-pointer, and a basket and a dunk from Parker off a Brayboy assist ignited the Demons to a 54-42 margin after three quarters.
Hunt could not pressure Fike the final quarter despite the efforts of May, Lucas and Farmer.
“I was proud of them,” Hardy reflected. “They left it all on the floor and that’s usually all a coach can ask.”
Said Fike’s Atkinson: “I was tired and very upset (about Thursday’s loss). They kept telling us that we had to play again, but I didn’t believe it. But it was either us or them.”
Secrest assessed: “Other than the defensive rebounding early and the fact they knew they could drive on us, we really sucked it up and played hard. We were kind of like a M.A.S.H. unit. The guys wanted to play; they didn’t want to lose on their home court and they don’t want it to be over.”
Wade 7, Coley 1, Taylor 2, Best, Rasberry, Farmer 19, May 7, Artis, Ward 3, Lucas 19.
Ward, Johnson, Cooper 18, Hillard, Horne 10, Madar, Green 5, Atkinson 14, Parker 15, Brayboy 11.
Score by quarters:
Hunt 13 14 15 16 — 58
Fike 18 12 24 19 — 73