Fairfield High School’s boys basketball team took the simplest path to defeat Tuesday night.
When crunch time came, the Indians just got outworked.
Sophomore guard Steven Grau fired in 19 points as Northwest produced a game-ending 20-2 run over the last 10 minutes and handed visiting Fairfield a 58-44 setback in nonconference play.
“When they took the lead in the fourth quarter, I thought our heads went down and our effort stopped,” Indians coach Jeff Sims said. “We just completely zoned out, and they took advantage of it.”
Devin Turner’s driving layup with 2:37 left in the third quarter gave Fairfield a 42-38 lead, but it turned out to be the visitors’ last field goal of the night.
The Knights ran off 16 straight points and evened their record at 1-1 in two games against Greater Miami Conference opponents (they lost to Hamilton 51-49 last Saturday).
“I’m feeling like we should be 2-0, to be quite honest with you … we’re up seven going to the fourth quarter against Hamilton,” Northwest coach Nick Argentati said. “I’m still feeling better than I thought I would coming into the season. We’re fairly inexperienced, but this is the easiest team I’ve had to coach in my four years here. They play hard. They listen to what we say. I can yell at them, which I do a lot, and they just deal with it. They’re a fun group to coach.”
Grau sank four 3-pointers for the Knights. Jamique Dogan and Keyshawn Bourrage, a junior forward playing in his first game at any level of high school, both scored 11 points.
Fairfield dropped to 0-2, shooting 33.3 percent from the floor and committing 21 turnovers, heading into Friday’s GMC opener at Lakota East.
“Towards the end, we had some careless turnovers, we were not being strong with the ball, and they just outplayed us,” said senior guard Blake Spaulding, who paced the Indians with 12 points. “That’s my fault personally as a leader. I take full responsibility. I have to be better, and we have to be better.
“Knowing the guys in this locker room, I really feel like we can turn it around, have two great days of practice and be extremely competitive in the league. The message to Fairfield fans is just stay patient and trust the process.”
Jeff Tyus contributed nine points and seven rebounds for the Indians, and Isaiah Coleman added five points and seven boards in just over eight minutes of action. Fairfield was 1 of 12 from beyond the arc.
Sims felt his squad was too undisciplined offensively, but he also praised Northwest.
“They did a good job of taking us out of the stuff we wanted to do,” Sims said. “We started giving them extra chances, long rebounds and stuff like that. I just thought they wanted the ball more a bunch of times.
“That kind of effort, that’s not who we are. I think this team right now just needs to work on who we are. We need to get better at us. I told them I’m not even sure I’m going to do an East scout. We may just work completely on our stuff.
“I thought yesterday was a bad practice for us, but we’ve only had one bad practice. We don’t have any spots locked in where we have to play certain people, so now we’ll decide who wants to play. We’ve got good senior leadership. I don’t think they’ll let the team just drop off that way. I’ll be surprised if we play this bad Friday.”
Dogan and Tyre McKinney both came up with four steals for the Knights, who committed 17 turnovers and shot 45.8 percent from the field. McKinney also dished out seven assists, while Bourrage grabbed eight boards and Micah Wilkins had seven.
Argentati thought Fairfield got worn down by Northwest’s defense.
“That’s just pressing them the whole game,” Argentati said. “At the end of the first half when it got going up and down, they were kind of sucking wind a little bit, and I think it got to them at the end of the game as well. We’re not the most talented team in the world, but we can win with just great effort and sheer numbers of guys that can go out and compete for 32 minutes.”
The Knights will begin Southwest Ohio Conference play at home against Edgewood on Friday.
FAIRFIELD (0-2): Tink English 2 0 4, Isaiah Phillips 0 2 2, Jeff Tyus 2 5 9, Blake Spaulding 5 1 12, Devin Turner 2 1 5, Kyle Schimpf 2 1 5, Isaiah Coleman 2 1 5, Allen Caldwell 1 0 2. Totals: 16-11-44
NORTHWEST (1-1): Steven Grau 6 3 19, Jamique Dogan 5 1 11, Tyre McKinney 3 1 7, Tyler Murray 1 0 3, Micah Wilkins 1 0 2, Keyshawn Bourrage 5 1 11, Kaleb Williams 1 3 5. Totals: 22-9-58
3-pointers: F 1 (Spaulding), N 5 (Grau 4, Murray)