Hot start, defense pace Fork Union past Woodberry

It was a battle against the hoop, and on top of that, some solid defense thrown in on both sides. Neither Fork Union nor Woodberry Forest played they way either would have liked to offensively. But with the Blue Devils getting off to a solid start in the first quarter and both teams battling in the second and third quarters, FUMA was able to hold off the visiting Tigers in the fourth to the tune of a 45-35 victory in a game that was played three days after it was postponed because of weather.


“That was the best defense we played all year and hopefully we can keep that up because that’s going to be the key to our season success wise,” said Blue Devils coach James Pelham. “The fundamentals were huge in the fourth, but not only that, it was almost like we were waiting for something bad to happen because it has for us too many times. It was good to see the guys just fight and get the win.”


Fork Union opened up the game with an 8-2 start and was able to keep things going into the second quarter up 15-4 with Antonio Pua’auli-Pelham hitting a trio of 3-pointers and Dontae Thornton knocking down a pair of shots.


“We were getting open shots and space for our big men to work,” Thornton said.


Nothing changed much in the second quarter or the third as FUMA maintained a 9-point lead heading into the break, and the Tigers only got within seven points late in the third. The third saw a four-minute scoring drought from both squads but with Stephen Hamilton hitting a 3-pointer at the buzzer, the Blue Devils took a 10-point lead into the fourth.


“We were just in too much of a rush early on and at halftime we had 14 turnovers,” said Tigers coach Craig Dawson. “We had more turnovers than points at that point and that’s a recipe for losing games. But in the second half we found a better rhythm but still just couldn’t put it the basket enough.”


Woodberry came out and got a basket from Jameel Wilson and then a pair of free throws from Dequece Carter to make it 30-24 with 5:50 to play. Fork Union answered with Thornton, Julius Smith and Pua’auli-Pelham knocking down free throws to make it 39-28 with just over two minutes to play.


From there, the Tigers tried to foul their way into the game, but with the Blue Devils going 11-for-14 from the stripe in the fourth, Woodberry was unable to make a late comeback.


“We got into the bonus early and just didn’t hit enough free throws in the fourth, but we’ll clean it up and get back to drawing board so we can get things together,” Dawson said.


On the night, two Blue Devils finished in double figures. Pua’auli-Pelham had 15 points led by four 3-pointers. Thornton had 12 and was 6-for-7 from the free throw line.


“In practice we always shoot free throws and (Coach Pelham) always gives us distractions,” Thornton said.


For Woodberry, Calder Clay led the way with nine points. Carter and Carter Friddle both finished with six points.


Fork Union (3-5) travels to St. Christopher’s while Woodberry heads to Christchurch, with both games on Friday.