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With two words, third-year head coach Jeff Nelson aptly summarized his Fike High varsity girls basketball team’s 48-33 season-opening loss to visiting D.H. Conley on Tuesday night.
“First game,” Nelson lamented.
Conley, a 3-A member of the 3-A/4-A Eastern Carolina Conference, dropped in the game’s first 10 points and Fike committed eight turnovers before collecting its first 2019-20 points. The Lady Golden Demons never led, although ending the first quarter with an 8-0 spree behind senior guard Brikayla Whitaker.
However, the Lady Vikings, also in their season opener, played physical defense against Whitaker and held Fike’s frustrated leader scoreless the second half.
At the outset, Fike was scoreless until Whitaker weaved through the Conley defense and connected on a layup with 2 minutes, 25 seconds left in the opening quarter.
Both head coaches — Nelson and Conley’s Shawn Moore — weren’t complaining that shooting statistics were not kept by either team. The numbers were miserable — as was Fike’s turnover count (more than 30) and Conley’s free-throw shooting (11 of 32).
“Awful,” Moore described. “But to get a win on the road, yes, I was pleased. But I was not pleased with our overall effort. We’re trying to rebuild and it was nice to come out on the road and get a win.”
Leading 10-8 after one quarter, the Lady Vikings scored the first five points of the second quarter and forged a 22-12 halftime lead on successive field goals from junior Summer Hart and slender 5-10 Jenna Wooten, the team’s lone senior.
Conley’s lead spread to 30-15 before Fike juniors Kendall Harris and Lindsey Curlings nailed 3-point shots. The Lady Vikings’ margin crested at 41-22 and the Lady Demons drew no closer than 41-30 with senior Regina Barber providing spark off the bench.
“We realize what we’ve got to work on,” Nelson observed. “We have to work harder at practice and play a little better team ball. If we rebound like that, it’s going to be a long season.”
Whitaker’s eight points paced Fike. Harris and Barber had seven each.
“We wanted to wear her down,” Moore said of the defensive play against Whitaker. “We wanted to keep a body on her at all times. We know what kind of player she is and she can hurt you.
“We also wanted to keep No. 10 (Harris) from taking the 3-point shot.”
Conley’s Wooten drilled in 17 points, blocked seven shots and joined junior Lauren Wiles in claiming double-digits in rebounds. Wiles, primarily on putbacks, added 13 points.
“Wooten can be as good as she wants to be,” Moore declared. “We have to keep her focused.”
The Lady Demons of the 3-A Big East Conference turn their focus to a road test against Greenville Rose, another 3-A member of the ECC, on Thursday.
D.H. CONLEY (48)
Wooten 17, Anderson 7, Smallwood 3, Wiles 13, Hart 2, Fleming 6, Knight.
J. Anderson 1, Graziani, Curlings 4, Whitaker 8, Barber 7, Harris 7, Artis, Lamm 4, Cowens-Wright 2.
Score by quarters:
D.H. Conley 10 12 12 14 — 48
Fike 8 4 9 12 — 33