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Sophomore Julius Caulder’s block of a West Bladen lay-up attempt with 7 seconds left preserved a 58-54 victory for Fairmont in their NCHSAA Class 2-A Sectional Final Tuesday night.

West Bladen had trailed 49-40 at the end of the third quarter, but the Knights started the final period with an 11-0 spurt to take the lead.

Senior Brandon Council muscled in a rebound to ignite the run, and senior Malcolm Vaught arched in a baseline floater. Moments later Vaught drained a 3-point shot to slice the lead to 49-47.

Senior guard Rahu Purdie sank 2 free throws to tie the game. After Fairmont missed 2 free throws, Purdie scooped in a lay-up for a 51-49 West lead with 3:50 remaining.

Fairmont played volleyball on the offensive boards on their next possession with Jarique Moore tapping in the tying basket on the fourth attempt.

Sophomore Sayaun Dent canned 2 free throws to give the Knights their final lead at 53-51 with 3:15 left.

Caulder answered for Fairmont with a turn-around 12-footer, then found Alshaquan Williams cutting to the basket for the go-ahead lay-up with 2:01 remaining.
Fairmont’s Isaiah Inman and Purdie traded free throws to keep the Knights within 56-54 with 42 seconds left.

The Tornadoes missed 4 free throws in the final 40 seconds, and West missed 2 chances to tie the game. The first one came on a 14-foot jumper in traffic, and then the last one was turned away by Caulder’s block. Caulder recovered the rebound, was fouled and iced the game with 2 free throws with 4 seconds left.

“Number 12 (Caulder) made a play,” said West Bladen Coach Travis Pait. “We had a couple of good looks that didn’t go in, but the difference in this game was razor thin. Just a loose ball or two that didn’t go our way.”

“Our size might have finally caught up with us,” continued Coach Pait. “But I thought we guarded well. They are a really good team.”

Purdie poured in 27 points for the Knights to lead all scorers. “He’s the best player in our league, and I don’t know of a better guard in the area.”

Vaught followed with 12 points, and Brandon Council added 8 points and 4 rebounds. Dent led the Knights with 9 rebounds, and junior Stephon McDonald dished out 3 assists.

Caulder and Williams topped the Fairmont scoring with 12 points each. Shyheim Hines followed with 10 points.

Hines threw in 5 points in the first period, and Elijah Hinson and Orion McRae added 4 points each as the Tornadoes built a 20-12 lead. Purdie fired in 7 points in the quarter, and Brandon Council added 4 for the Knights.

Purdie drilled in a 3-pointer in the second quarter, then drove for a lay-up. Brandon Council worked the baseline for a basket that closed the gap to 24-20.

Purdie pulled up in the lane for an 8-footer then drilled a 16-footer from the elbow. Vaught scored in transition to keep West within 31-26 at halftime.

Vaught stole the ball and raced for a lay-up to begin the second half. Purdie bombed in a 3-point shot to pull the Knights to within 34-31.

Vaught buried a 3-pointer from the corner to trim the margin to 36-34. McDonald made a free throw, and Purdie nailed another 3-pointer to keep West within 42-38.

After Dent banked in a transition basket to keep the Knights within 44-40, Caulder drove for a lay-up to kick-off a 5-0 Tornado run that produced the 49-40 lead.

West Bladen finishes the season with a 22-5 record, while 23-6 Fairmont advances to the regional.

“This is the first class that I have had for all four years here,” said Coach Pait. “They are just a great group. They won the conference and a very strong Christmas Tournament. One of my favorite teams that I have ever coached.”

WB (54) – A. J. Council, Rahu Purdie 27, Malcolm Vaught 12, Daquan Lennon, Stephon McDonald 3, Brian Floyd, Sayaun Dent 4, Jonathan Robinson, Brandon Council 8.

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