Cards toss Bucs a last-minute loss
Nick Lee put on an offensive show, scoring his 29 points in a variety of ways, but the Bucs fell short, losing their opening South Central Conference game to Fairmont by the score of 68-62.
Playing before their home crowd, the Bucs jumped out to a 10-lead behind Lee and center Garrett Anderson.
Fairmont’s Justin Walters finally put the Cardinals on the board with just under four minutes gone off the game clock.
It would take most of the first half, but Fairmont clawed their way back and took their first lead of the contest with 2:27 remaining in the opening stanza. Martin Tow connected for two of his 21 points to put Fairmont up 27-26.
The remainder of the half was a back and forth affair with the Bucs grabbing the half time lead 33-32 courtesy of Lee’s drive to basket.
The game was full of intense action – no big surprise when these two long time rivals meet. There was a lot of physical play in the lane and the refs were not going to call any charging fouls although it appeared that both teams were guilty of that infraction. Thus, players drove the lane hard and were able to draw many blocking fouls.
Unfortunately for the Bucs, they could make only 9 of their 21 free throw attempts while their opponents sank 15 of their 22 shots from the charity stripe. So for the second straight game, the Bucs inability to convert a higher percentage of their free throws compared to their opponent had a very large impact on the outcome of the game.
Half number two began just as the first half had ended, with neither team able to pull away in the early going. It was Lee again who would put the Bucs in front for the last time at 45-42 with just under 11 minutes remaining in the game.
It was all Cardinals for the next four minutes as they put together a 15-0 scoring run that left the Bucs trailing by 12 points at 57-45.
A steal and short jumper by Buc guard Dalton Hurn finally stopped the streak but the deficit would prove to be too large for the Bucs to overcome.
Forced to foul as the game got into the late stages, the Bucs could pull no closer than six points at game’s end, as the Cardinals sank 8 of 10 free throws over the last 3:08 seconds to hold on for the victory.
Team statistics showed the Bucs made 22 two-point field goals to Fairmont’s 16. However, besides their free throw advantage, the Cardinals also hit on seven shots from behind the arc compared to three 3-pointers for the Bucs.
Lee grabbed 10 rebounds to go along with his 29 points while Anderson added 10 points.
Next for the Bucs is their holiday tournament which will be held Monday, December 29, and Tuesday, December 30.