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For the Hunt High varsity girls basketball team, archrival Fike was the gift that kept on giving this week.
It opened with the Lady Golden Demons’ thrilling one-point win over Northern Nash on Tuesday night, a result that allowed the Lady Warriors to climb within one victory of their third conference championship in school history. And with Fike serving as the opposition Friday in a packed Hunt gym, the Lady Warriors didn’t seize back-to-back 3-A Big East Conference championships as much as their neighbors dropped it their doorstep in a 46-43 Hunt victory, its eighth in a row.
Despite Fike enduring a obscene 2-for-14 showing from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter, the Lady Demons were in position to steal a win on the road.
Trailing 45-43 with 17.4 seconds remaining, Fike (12-10, 5-5 Big East) took possession after Hunt (17-3, 8-1 Big East) senior Tyra Rushing missed the front end of a one-and-one. The Lady Demons advanced the ball past halfcourt and took timeout with just over 10 seconds to go in order to draw up a play. With Hunt sagging back defensively, junior point guard Brikayla Whitaker drove into the lane before passing to sophomore Kendall Harris out of the corner. But Harris’ look didn’t go down, and the ball meandered out of bounds to Hunt with 1.5 seconds to go. Junior Imani Sutton was fouled and went to the line, making the first and later admitted she tried to miss the second — but was called for a lane violation in the process.
Fike grabbed the rebound with four-tenths of a second to play and called timeout, but had to inbound the length of the floor. Whitaker was unable to release a desperation heave as time expired.
“We actually got lucky,” Hunt head coach Tiffany Parks said of Fike’s foul-line maladies. “We were just looking at it, and this little stretch in the fourth was four, eight, nine, 10, 11, 12. So it was 2 for 12 (actually 2 for 14). But I’m glad they missed!”
Fike, which only led once at 2-0, trailed by as many as 11 in the second half. But the Lady Warriors retreated into a malaise of accepting missed jump shots, and a 40-33 lead in the fourth quarter went away on junior Faith Lucas’ layup to tie at 41.
The proceedings turned helter-skelter in nature after junior Bria Griffith grabbed an offensive rebound and put it back in to give Hunt a 43-41 lead with just under three minutes remaining. From there, it turned into a cavalcade of missed free throws, layups and rushed possessions as each team attempted to overcome the pressure. Parks emerged displeased with her team’s rebounding and inability to keep Sage off the glass.
However, with 39.3 seconds to go, Hunter tried to drive the lane, only to run into Griffith, who took the charge. The ensuing inbound went to Sutton, who made a pair of free throws for a four-point lead.
“It was very frustrating,” Sutton said of Hunt’s fourth-quarter drought. “We let Ashleigh get the ball and get more rebounds.”
Senior Ashleigh Sage, who finished with eight points, 15 rebounds and eight blocks, laid it up to bring Fike within two. That’s when Rushing missed the one-and-one and Fike had the chance to win — but to no avail.
“I drew up that we would do a pick and roll to (Harris’) side,” Fike head coach Jeff Nelson said. “If they helped on it, I had a three-point shooter out there. We weren’t looking for a three, but if they were going to do that, someone’s got to be open.”
Harris did not score.
“We wanted me and Faith to crash and get that rebound and put it back up, getting the and-one,” Sage said of Fike’s last quality look. “It just didn’t bounce our way.”
The 2-for-14 showing in the fourth merely caused Nelson to bury his head in his hands outside the Fike locker room.
“When you lose by three and it’s a one- or two-point game for a while, and you miss 12 free throws, that’s tough,” he said. “It’s tough.”
Sutton had 15 points to pace Hunt, while Griffith had 11. Griffith had to leave the game with 1.5 seconds to play and walked to the locker room area holding the back of her head. For Fike, Whitaker’s 19 points led all scorers.
Hunt will observe Senior Night next Friday when it hosts Northern Nash in a rescheduled affair. Fike, which has completed its regular-season schedule, is off until the start of the Big East tournament.
“We’re excited,” Parks assured. “It takes a little bit of the pressure off playing Northern next Friday. We still want to win, but it does help that we’re already there.”
Both teams and fans wore purple in honor of late Fike High teacher Pamela Eatmon.
Harris, Ortiz 4, Whitaker 19, Lucas 4, Artis, Pernell 8, Sage 8.
Griffith 11, McNeill, Tucker, Rushing 2, Carlton 4, Spells 7, Smith 5, Sutton 15, Lucas 2.
Score by quarters:
Fike 5 11 17 10 — 43
Hunt 10 15 12 9 — 46