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With the Farris & Farris Holiday Tournament returning to its post-Christmas position, the potential for harried and ragged basketball existed when 3-A Big East Conference archrivals Hunt High and Fike met in Wednesday’s semifinal round on Beddingfield’s home floor.
Precisely, that’s what transpired. Empty possessions were numerous. Missed layups that left points off the scoreboard piled up, and the Lady Warriors led by 11 in the third quarter before Fike made a run to close within two by the close of the period. However, junior Imani Sutton knocked down a 3-pointer off an inbounds play with 2:13 remaining, finishing off a 13-3 Lady Warriors run and boosting Hunt to the eventual 54-45 victory.
Hunt prevailed for the eighth time in 10 games and advances to Friday’s 6:30 p.m. championship game against Smithfield-Selma, a 45-43 overtime winner over Beddingfield in the evening’s other girls semifinal. Fike, which was denied its 30th appearance in a FFHT (formerly Eastern Carolina Classic) final in 41 years as well as the chance to defend its title, dropped to 5-4. The Lady Golden Demons will oppose Beddingfield in Thursday’s consolation game at 6.
“I think they ate too many cookies!” Hunt head coach Tiffany Parks said. “The floors got redone over the break, so we didn’t get to practice. We had a walk-through before we got here, and that was kind of it. It’s just hard to get everyone on the same page.”
Hunt also had to navigate intervals without Sutton, who prior to her 3-pointer in the fourth quarter dislocated her shoulder in the first half. That brought her off the floor, but once it was put back in, she returned.
Parks estimated her team missed “at least 18” layups. The Lady Warriors led 18-8 on a 3-pointer by senior Shaniah Spells and were up 22-12 after the first quarter on the strength of four baskets from long range. Fike stayed in it until the fourth quarter with proficiency from the foul line, making 15 of 22. Conversely, Hunt, which hasn’t practiced since last Thursday, converted on just 6 of 16 tosses from the free-throw line.
“We weren’t shooting very well today at all,” Parks said. “Everybody seemed kind of flat in their shots, and they weren’t getting their legs.”
But Fike made a game of it in the second half behind junior Brikayla Whitaker and senior Jah’asia Pernell. Trailing by 11, the Lady Demons closed it to within two on jumpers by Whitaker and Pernell, as well as a three-point play from Whitaker. A pair of free throws from sophomore Kendall Harris left Fike down 36-34 entering the fourth quarter.
“We didn’t shoot the ball well from the outside, and we missed a lot of our mid-range that we’ve been making,” Fike head coach Jeff Nelson said. “I think that was definitely a big factor. We put some runs on them and got back in the game and got within two. Then, I don’t know if maybe we used that energy to get back into the game and then just fizzled out, and they made their run.”
Junior Bria Griffith, who led Hunt with a double-double of 15 points and 12 rebounds, had a putback to extend Hunt’s fourth-quarter lead to six. Then, a pair of slick passes — Sutton to junior Khala McNeill and Griffith to junior Dylia Lucas in transition — made the lead double digits. The Sutton-to-McNeill finish was particularly flashy, as Sutton threw a backdoor lob that McNeill finished in flight.
Hunt’s lead would not dip below eight the rest of the way. Fike pulled to within 49-41 with 2:01 to play on the final of two Harris free throws before Parks signaled for time and requested the ball get in the hands of Griffith.
“I think in the beginning, we kind of got rushed,” Griffith said. “We were doing good, shooting a lot of 3s and making a lot of 3s in transition, but then, when everything started to slow down, it was like we tried to rush it.
Griffith led Hunt with seven assists, with senior Tatiana Smith adding 13 points and five rebounds. Hunt senior Tyra Rushing pulled down 11 rebounds as the Warriors dominated the glass by a 45-26 margin. Ashleigh Sage, a 6-foot-2 senior, led the Demons on the glass with 10 rebounds and several blocks, but did not score.
Faith Lucas, a Hunt transfer making her first appearance for the Lady Demons, had four points and seven boards.
Like Hunt, Fike also dealt with a lack of practice time, having not seen the floor since Friday.
“I liked it last year when we had it before Christmas,” Sage said of the tournament. “But it is tough coming off a four-day break, and eating all that food yesterday didn’t help at all. I think we played alright. A lot of shots weren’t falling for us tonight, and that happens sometimes to every team, no matter how good they are. I think we played well defensively after we took away their 3 ball.”
Whitaker 14, Harris 9, Lucas 4, Pernell 18, Lamm, Sage, Ortiz.
Griffith 15, Sutton 9, Smith 13, Spells 3, McNeil 6, Lucas 4, Rushing 4, Thorpe, Carlton, Norris.
Score by quarters:
Fike 12 10 12 11 — 45
Hunt 22 7 7 18 — 54