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The Fike High varsity boys basketball team’s inspired Senior Night performance rocked but failed to deck one of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association’s top 3-A teams Tuesday night.
Junior Sam Page canned a pair of free throws with 5.4 seconds remaining to enable Northern Nash, No. 3-ranked by Maxpreps.com, to escape with a scintillating 75-72 Big East Conference victory.
The 11th consecutive win vaulted the Knights, 21-1 overall, to the Big East championship and to 11-0 league with a showdown at second-place Rocky Mount looming Thursday night. Northern Nash wrapped up the title when Rocky Mount lost to Southern Nash on Tuesday night.
The Golden Demons tumbled to 3-6 in the league and 10-12 against all foes. Fike wraps up the regular season at archrival Hunt on Thursday night.
Northern Nash, twice up by 17 points in the second half, owned a 73-72 edge when tireless Fike junior Elijahwon Cooper missed a heavily-contested layup with just under 10 seconds remaining.
After Page sank the free throws, Cooper hurried the basketball to the Fike end and unleashed a 3-point shot that bounced off the front of the rim at the buzzer.
“One or two breaks and we win that ballgame,” declared Fike head coach Brent Secrest. “(Fike players) did what they had to do to be there, but we didn’t get the foul call on (Cooper’s) drive and we came up short on the 3-point shot. We got what we wanted (in both instances).”
Said Javon Green, Fike’s only senior: “I congratulate my teammates on their effort. We played hard the second half and, if we had played with the same effort the first half with our rebounding and getting defensive stops, we would have won that game.”
Junior Jeffery Dickerson and sophomore Moses Parker led a balanced Fike effort with 17 points each. Cooper, a junior, bucketed 16 and sophomore Dashon Horne netted 10.
Sharp-shooting junior Undray Cherry drilled in a game-high 29 points for the Knights. Page bucketed 17 and junior DeVante Wiggins 11.
Behind Cherry, the Knights bolted to a 19-5 margin in the opening quarter. Trailing 21-8 after one quarter, Fike chopped the deficit to 25-17 before the poised and confident Knights’ advantage reached 17 points for the first of three times at 38-21.
In the third quarter, the Demons closed a 38-24 halftime deficit to 41-32 before Northern Nash answered with a 7-0 burst. The Knights would lead twice more by 17 points before gradually losing their swagger — and gritty Fike sensing as much.
Dickerson’s 3-pointer left the determined Demons trailing 53-46 after three quarters.
A Parker putback early the final period left Fike down 56-51. Horne’s free throw whittled the deficit to 59-54 with 4:46 remaining. Dickerson canned two free throw 18 seconds later.
Cherry and Wiggins triggered the Knights to a 65-56 cushion with 3:15 to go. But Fike bounced back once more, drawing to within 65-62 on Horne’s 3-pointer and to 67-65 on Cooper’s 3-pointer with 1:20 to go. Junior DarQuez, with help from Page, stepped up to keep the Knights out front as much as 71-66.
However, Cooper’s 3-pointer left Fike behind 71-69 with 29.5 seconds showing and Parker’s three-point play resulted in a 73-72 Northern Nash edge with 18.8 seconds to go. Cherry then missed two free throws. But the Demons missed the layup and the last-ditch 3-point attempt after Page’s two free throws.
“We were not very motivated the first half,” Secrest emphasized. “We played great in the second half and, if we had played with the same effort and intensity in the first half, we would have beaten them.”
Green masked his disappointment, remarking: “It has been a pretty good (senior) year for me.”
NORTHERN NASH (75)
Page 17, Cherry 29, Flowers 8, Cherry-Blue 6, Wiggins 11, Lynch, Liggins 2, Hankerson 2.
Cooper 16, Dickerson 17, Horne 10, Green 6, Brayboy 2, Parker 17, Atkinson 4, Hillard, Madar, Johnson.
Score by quarters: