FAIRMONT, N.C. – Two things that Richmond Senior High School boys basketball coach Donald Pettigrew said that had to happen in order to start the season off with a win were the limiting of turnovers and his team’s total effort for all 32 minutes.
That wasn’t the case in Pettigrew’s head coaching debut, as the Raiders opened their season Wednesday with a 63-49 loss on the road at non-conference Fairmont High School (2-0).
Plagued by second-half turnovers, more significantly in the fourth quarter, Richmond (0-1) finished the first three quarters only trailing the Golden Tornadoes 43-39. But a late suffocating full-court pressure defense by Fairmont, coupled with the Raiders’ inability to drill shots from the free throw line, ultimately resulted in the season’s first loss.
Also making his debut for the Raiders was junior forward Xavier Pettigrew, who transferred this year from Temple Christian School. Pettigrew finished his first game in green and gold with a team-high 13 points, while senior guard Da’Shaun Wallace added 10 points of his own.
Fairmont jumped out to an early 17-7 first quarter lead, but the Raiders managed to earn a 26-24 lead right before the half, with big time shots coming from 6-7 sophomore center Jarvis Tillman and junior guard Alex Quick.
However, Fairmont entered the locker room up 27-26 following senior guard Corry Addison’s buzzer-beating three-pointer.
In the second half, Richmond hung tough, but the Golden Tornadoes pulled away late thanks to the help of fourth quarter free throws, which is an area the Raiders also struggled with. Pettigrew’s team finished the night 9-for-20 from the charity stripe, and the head coach acknowledged that this as an issue the team needs to fix.
As Pettigrew and Wallace were the only two Richmond scorers in double digits, Tillman tacked on seven of his own. Senior guards Darrius Butler and Carl McNeal each had five points, while senior forward Malik Flowers and Quick finished the night with four points. Junior Roderick Newton had one point.
Fairmont’s Nalijha Pittman, a 6-4 center, led all scorers with 16 points. He was helped by Addison’s 13 points, as well as getting 10 points from senior forward Sidney McKeithan.
The score of the game was much different than the explosive offensive “system” that former head coach David Laton ran last season that saw the Raiders rank No. 1 nationally with 100.9 points per game. Pettigrew, whose focus is shifted more toward a stronger defense, felt that his players did well but need work on being able to close games with more ferocity.
In the junior varsity game, Richmond pulled off a 27-24 victory. Leading scorers for the Raiders were Zarmod Ellerbe (16 points) and Joerail White (6 points).
The Raiders will look to pick up their first win of the season next week, as they’ll host Sandhills Athletic Conference opponent Purnell Swett High School (2-0) on Tuesday, December 5. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.