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On Senior Night for the Fike High varsity boys basketball team, it was a Hunt sophomore that gave the archrival Golden Demons a whole heap of trouble.
Ty’Chaun Clay had all 18 of his points in the second half, including a key steal and lay-in with roughly a minute left Friday to lift the Warriors to what turned out to be the outright 3-A Big East Conference regular-season title with a 62-55 victory.
Hunt, which concluded the regular season at 16-7 overall and 8-2 in conference play, was assured of the No. 1 seed for next week’s conference tournament on the basis of sweeping Rocky Mount. But with the Gryphons’ loss to Northern Nash in other Friday action, Hunt shares the regular-season title with no one in head coach Dwight Taylor’s second year back at the helm of the Warriors. A conference meeting Saturday morning will determine game sites for the week, but Hunt won’t play again until Wednesday in the semifinals.
Clay pestered defensively after being held scoreless in the first half, getting to the rim despite the Demons remaining in a zone defense.
“He plays even keel most of the time,” Taylor said of Clay. “And then, when you really need him, he tries to step up. That’s great, coming from a sophomore.”
With Fike honoring the contributions of six seniors — Donovan Sanders, Mason Lee, Moses Parker, Lance Jones, Trevon Atkinson and Seth Conti — it was an underclassman that dictated to the Demons defensively. Fike, which lost its fourth straight game, concluded the regular season at 7-14 and 2-8 in league play, being locked into the No. 5 seed before tipoff and a first-round game against No. 4 Franklinton on Monday.
“He’s the main reason we couldn’t go man-to-man,” Fike head coach Brent Secrest lamented of Clay. “We needed to go man-to-man, but we couldn’t. We just didn’t match up well man-to-man with their quickness and athletic ability. We just didn’t use the advantages we had in our favor.”
One of those edges was Parker, who helped bring the Demons back into contention in the fourth quarter after trailing Hunt 45-36 through three quarters. Parker had 10 of his 12 points in the second half, getting into the paint for tough baskets in what proved to be his final game on Fike’s floor.
“It’s been kind of a rough ride,” Parker said. “But I’ve enjoyed my senior year playing with my teammates.”
Hunt had its lead chopped to four on three occasions in the fourth quarter, the latest coming on a 3-pointer by sophomore Kyshon Atkinson, who led the Demons with 15 points. However, the Warriors marched to the free-throw line in the fourth quarter. From 55-50, Fike missed a jumper that could have made it a one-possession game with 1:13 remaining.
Clay proceeded to make 1-of-2 free throws, and his subsequent theft and layup essentially iced the regular-season championship for Hunt.
“We knew if we won, we’d be the conference champs,” Clay said. “We had that thought in our mind and went out and played hard. That really contributed to it, knowing that we’d be the No. 1 seed with a win. So we just all went out there and fought.”
Seniors Shakei Hines and Shaq Wade had 16 and 15 points for the Warriors, respectively. For Fike, junior Khouri Carvey had 12 and Atkinson had 10.
The Warriors never trailed after Wade converted a 3-point play in the first quarter to put Hunt ahead 12-10. Hunt led 24-17 at the half and is assured of the league’s No. 1 seed for the North Carolina High School Athletic Association 3-A playoffs, regardless of tournament results. Meanwhile, the de facto playoffs begin for the Demons on Monday night.
“That’s the main thing,” Taylor said. “We can’t lose that No. 1 seed. Therefore, we’re just trying to get back to work and improve and hopefully the tournament will help us get better.”
Clay 18, Wade 15, Keen 2, Taylor, Hines 16, Hammonds, Jones 7, Joyner 2, Hopkins 2.
Battle 3, K. Atkinson 15, Lee 3, Sanders, Waddell, Carvey 12, T. Atkinson 10, Batts, Parker 12.
Score by quarters:
Hunt 14 10 21 17 — 62
Fike 11 6 19 19 — 55