Thursday, February 21, 2008

Demons downshift right out of a home playoff game

I was excited about the prospect of the Fike-SouthWest Edgecombe 3-A NEW 6 Conference varsity boys basketball tournament semifinal Wednesday at Fike.

After all these teams had each won on the other's courts during the season and were part of a four-way tie — with Rocky Mount and Nash Central — for first place in the regular season. Plus, each team boasted an exciting lead performer in Fike junior Jeremy Atkinson and SWE senior Eugene Jenkins which almost assured an explosive meeting.

But the first quarter saw the Cougars struggle to an 18-9 deficit. At least the Golden Demons were doing their part, especially guard A.J. Hines who nailed a trio of 3-pointers. Fike had four 3-balls in the quarter.

Then in the second, the Demons became deliberate, almost looking like they were in a slowdown. Naturally, the Cougars chipped away at the lead until they caught them late in the third quarter. By then, Fike's offense had devolved into what it had done during a midseason losing skid — standing around and waiting for Atkinson to do something.

"They just stood around. We didn’t play ball like we played all year," said a clearly disappointed Demons head coach George Drawhorn. "Just walked the ball down the floor. I guess it’s just one of those games.

"I kept changing point guards and saying push the ball but sometimes that’s all you can do as a coach. We just got outplayed tonight and, in the playoffs, instead of playing at home, we’re going on the road."

Drawhorn was right. The Demons forfeited a chance at the NEW 6's top seed for the N.C. High School Athletic Association 3-A playoffs and lost the No. 2 seed outright. Now they must face Nash Central, a 74-71 loser to Rocky Mount in Wednesday's first semifinal, at 4:30 p.m. Friday for the conference's No. 3 seed.

Gone is the first-, and possibly second-round home playoff game for Fike. Now its first-round foe will be a No. 1 or No. 2 seed.

"Third (seed), you go to (Oxford) Webb or four, you go to Greensboro Dudley — so pick your poison," Drawhorn said.

The Demons are just going to have put Wednesday night behind them quickly and let any finger-pointing ride. It's do-or-die time and seasons have a way of ending all too quickly for team's not focused.

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