For Fairfield High School boys basketball coach Jeff Sims, there is no place like home.
After four consecutive road games to open the season, the Indians found the cozy confines of their home court most accommodating with a 67-65 win archrival Hamilton.
After building a big lead, an intense home student section helped carry the Tribe through a cold stretch in the final quarter as Fairfield snagged its first win of the year.
“First off, we have the best student section in the city,” Sims said. “We were 0-4, it’s freezing out and we get that kind of turn out tonight. Our guys really fed off the energy of our student section. Shooting is contagious and energy is contagious and we had both tonight. It was good to be home.”
After managing 35 points in a loss Tuesday at Middletown, Fairfield hit its first four shots of the night and never cooled off while building a 37-29 halftime lead. Fairfield had 11 players score in the opening half, nailing 12 of 23 from the field, including eight three pointers.
“Let’s be honest, when you hit shots this is an easier game,” Sims said. “We have been playing 12 guys and all season it is going to be a different group of guys step up and lead us in different ways. The guys buy into the system. I know the record doesn’t show it but we are getting better.”
The hot start spotted a huge lead the Indians needed every bit of late. Leading 60-45 with four minutes left the Indians found the charity strip unkind as Hamilton cut the gap to one with under a minute left.
Fairfield hit only nine of 21 from the line in the final quarter as the Big Blue got as close at 63-62 and had two good looks in the finals second to send the game to overtime. Payton Pennington drove in for a tying lay-up that just missed before the offensive rebound was kicked out to Kurtis Reid, who was just long on a game winning three-point attempt.
“We began to press late,” Sims said of the missed free throws. “The pressure got to us. We are still a young team learning how to win but we hit the ones when we needed them.”
On the other side, Hamilton coach Sean Van Winkle loved the moxy his team showed coming back but found the defensive effort lacking as the Blue dropped its second straight game.
“We are down 15 with four minutes left and had two shots to win it,” Van Winkle said. “I am so proud of our grit. We never quit, we kept battling. I told them in the locker room I wouldn’t trade this team for anyone else. I know we lost but I am very very proud of this group.”
Down 52-33 late in the third quarter, Hamilton came back behind Jaylen Robinson and D’Marco Howard. Robinson had a game-high 21 points and Howard chipped in 16 points, seven rebounds, five assists and four steals. Reid added 10 points and nine caroms while Daveon Williams chipped in eight points and eight boards.
“As a coaching staff we chose to force them to go over the top of us,” Van Winkle said of the early defensive issues. “Fairfield did a good job making shots. We made adjustments at half and they didn’t hit anymore three’s after half. Let’s give them credit, they took the shots we wanted to give them and they made them.”
Hamilton shot 23 of 52 from the field and outrebounded FF 41-30. The Blue hit only three of 14 from beyond the arc.
For the Indians, Devin Turner had a team-high 12 points and seven rebounds. Blake Spaulding had 10 points, five rebounds and four assists while Tink English had eight points and four steals. Jeff Tyus had eight points, four boards and three assists.
Fairfield, 1-4, 1-2 in the Greater Miami Conference, returns to action Saturday at Kings. Hamilton, 3-2, 1-2 GMC, is off until next Friday when it travels to Lakota East.