Tornadoes sweep away Dark Horses

Jan. 7—FAIRMONT — After Wednesday's loss at Lumberton, Fairmont boys basketball coach Montrell McNair said his team was improving to the point he expected it to show in the results "sooner rather than later."

He was right — it didn't take long.

Fairmont dominated visiting Clinton from the outset in Friday's Southeastern Athletic Conference contest, earning a 65-43 win.

"We came together as a team; we played a little bit more organized tonight, and played together," Fairmont coach Montrell McNair said. "When you share the basketball and get out in transition you learn to get easy opportunities. I think our defense created a lot of those easy opportunities ... that kind of helped us out and gave us some energy. We continued to fight, and we finished tonight for the most part."

The strong team performance by Fairmont (3-9, 1-2 Southeastern) was led by strong individual performances from Isaac McKellar, who scored 20 points, and Xavier Johnson, who had 19.

"As long as we work hard and stay focused and play together, we'll be better," Johnson said. "From the losses that we took, it just bettered us on; in practice we work harder, getting through the skills better so we can play harder in the game."

"(McKellar) is kind of an energizer player that we have," McNair said. "He played a solid game tonight on both sides of the ball. He had quite a few steals. Xavier did a better job of playing defense tonight, and I feel like as a team we did a better job of getting up in passing lanes, tipping it from behind and playing together."

The Golden Tornadoes jumped out to leads of 16-4 and 20-6, led by seven first-quarter points from Johnson and six from McKellar; Fairmont led 20-11 after the first quarter.

"I think that kind of pushed our defense to play more aggressive," McNair said. "It's always better, when the ball is going in the hole, when you're playing defense ; it's harder when the ball's not going in to continue playing solid defense. We did well tonight defending."

Clinton (3-9, 0-3 Southeastern) used a 9-0 run to close within five points at 20-15 with 7:03 left in the half, but never got any closer; Fairmont closed the half on a 14-4 run, with five points each by Johnson and Tyrek Thompson during the run, to take a 34-19 lead at intermission.

The Fairmont momentum continued early in the third quarter, with a 3 and two layups by Johnson as part of a 9-0 run for a 43-21 lead with 5:10 in the period. The teams more or less exchanged baskets for the rest of the quarter and Fairmont took a 53-30 lead to the fourth.

Johnson and McKellar also helped seal the outcome in the final period. After Clinton began the fourth with a 9-0 run to cut the Golden Tornadoes' lead to 53-39, a Johnson dunk followed by McKellar layups on two successive possessions, rebuilt the Fairmont lead to 59-39 with 3:33 to go.

"I've been trying to get (a dunk)," Johnson said. "I missed the first one (earlier in the game), but I just felt it. When he stole the ball I was already open, so I just felt it; I called for the ball and he gave it to me, and I had to flush it."

Tyrek Thompson scored eight points with seven rebounds for Fairmont and Naishon Davis and Josiah Billings each scored six points, with Billings grabbing 13 rebounds.

Ny'Darion Blackwell led Clinton with nine points and six rebounds, Gregory Coxum had eight points and nine rebounds and T.K. Raynor scored seven points.

Defense, rebound lift Lady Tornadoes

For the first 6 1/2 minutes of Friday's girls basketball game between Fairmont and Clinton, both teams struggled to find the basket, with six total points scored in the span.

But Niah Smith sparked the Golden Tornadoes offensively, and the team's defense and rebounding remained just as strong for much of the rest of the contest, leading Fairmont to a 63-28 win.

"The first team came out playing a little bit off, so I was telling my teammates on the bench that we need to bring the energy on the court and we'll win the game," said Smith, who came off the bench to score 17 points with six rebounds.

Fairmont (10-3, 2-1 Southeastern) led 4-2, on the strength of two Taniya Simms baskets, before the beginning the offensive turnaround with a Niah Smith basket with 1:18 left in the first quarter. The Golden Tornadoes led 7-5 by the end of the first quarter, then outscored Clinton 22-3 in the second quarter to take a 29-8 halftime lead.

Niah Smith scored six points in the second quarter as part of a night in which she matched a career high in scoring.

"Niah stepped up big, and it's always awesome to have a sophomore step up that big," Fairmont coach Marcus Thompson said. "She made all the right moves — she didn't play a perfect game, but a lot of the plays she made were perfect plays that you go over in practice, that you're trying to her to go without traveling. Tonight she did it, and she did it fearlessly, and she knew what she came to do today."

Clinton (7-5, 0-3 Southeastern) was held to one second-quarter field goal after managing just two in the first quarter. While Fairmont's defense played well on that it, its rebounding was just as key, with several second-chance opportunities resulting in Golden Tornadoes points.

"It's extremely important that they stick to (defense and rebounding) — that's our foundation," Thompson said. "But we've got to put the ball in the hoop. We've got to. But it's important that they buy into the defense."

Fairmont led 36-12 late in the third quarter before Clinton used a 9-0 run to close the gap to 36-21 after the first possession of the fourth quarter. The Golden Tornadoes outscored the Dark Horses 26-7 the rest of the way.

Taniya Simms had 15 points with five rebounds for Fairmont, Sydney Jacobs scored 11 points and Amyrikal Vaught had 10. Zariah Locklear grabbed eight rebounds and Miah Smith had seven.

Tara Joyner led Clinton with 11 points, Anna Perry Sinclair had eight with 10 rerbounds and Brittany Blackburn scored seven points with eight rebounds and four blocks.

Fairmont hosts Scotland for a nonconference tilt Saturday. The boys game will be played first, at 4 p.m., followed by the girls.

Chris Stiles can be reached at 910-816-1977 or by email at cstiles@robesonian.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @StilesOnSports.