The Fairfield Indians barely had time to celebrate their first-ever Greater Miami Conference outright boys basketball championship last season before being upset in their Division I tournament opener by conferencerival Lakota West, 60-52.
The Indians got their first crack at revenge against the Firebirds on Friday at Fairfield. They almost let it slip away, but Logan Woods pulled them through.
Besides holding Lakota West scoring ace Nathan Dudukovich to a season-low 11 points – two in the second half – with in-your-face defense, the senior guard led Fairfield with 12 points, the last two on a jump shot from the free throw line with 5.4 seconds left in overtime for a 44-42 win.
“We wanted to come in with a chip on our shoulder after the way they popped us in the tournament last season,” the 6-foot-4 senior guard said. “They fought back, but we stayed composed.”
The Indians overcame a dreadful shooting night – 37 percent from the field (17-of-46) from a team shooting 50.4 going in and 30.8 (8-of-26) on 3-pointers, down from 40.4 – and 14 turnovers to extend their winning streak to six games. One reason was a whopping 35-22 advantage in rebounding, leading to an 8-0 lead in second-chance points.
Another was Woods, whose 3-pointer from the right wing gave Fairfield its largest lead, 31-21, with 1:05 left in the third quarter, but he and FHS coach D.J. Wyrick agree that his defense on Dudukovich was the key. Dudukovich touched the ball so little that he couldn’t get to the line after shooting a combined 25 free throws in Lakota West’s previous two games, yet Woods wasn’t charged with a foul while paying such close scrutiny.
“I don’t know what he had in the first half, but I took more pride in my defense in second half,” Woods said.
“We wanted to face guard him,” Wyrick said. “That puts a lot of pressure on the other four guys to guard the dribble. (The Firebirds) took advantage of that.”
Lakota West senior William Layfield led both teams with 20 points. His free throws with 21.7 seconds left capped the Firebirds’ comeback and forced overtime.
“They’re probably the best team in Cincinnati, but I haven’t seen everybody,” Lakota West coach Jim Leon said. “What we can take from this game is we know we can play with teams like that. We’ll take this game and build on it – especially defensively.”
Fairfield (13-1, 9-0), tied with Sylvania Northview for 10th in the most recent Associated Press Division I statewide poll, is scheduled to meet Division II poll-leader Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary in a Flyin’ to the Hoop matchup at Kettering Fairmont High School’s Trent Arena on Sunday at 4:45 p.m. The Indians are due to return to GMC action Friday at home against Mason.
Lakota West (6-6, 3-5) played Colerain in a GMC game on Saturday. The Firebirds then are off until their intra-district matchup at Lakota East on Friday.
Friday’s game was the only one in the regular season between Fairfield and Lakota West. Both set season lows for scoring.
“We don’t want to play them again,” Leon joked.
Lakota West went into the game ranked second in the GMC in scoring, one rung behind Lakota East and ahead of No. 3 Fairfield. The Firebirds led the conference in field-goal percentage with Fairfield ranked second, and the two teams traded places in 3-point percentage with Fairfield leading despite launching more long-range shots than any other team at 270. The next-highest team was Sycamore with 224.
“To be honest, we thought it was going to be in the 80s,” Wyrick said. “They like to push it. This was a true GMC game.”
Fairfield needed some time to warm up, but the Indians sank their last three 3-pointers of the half – by three different players, junior Ty Cunningham and seniors Woods and Owen Bronston – during an 11-3 run for a 22-17 halftime lead. Bronston scored six points to lead Fairfield, which finished the half just 4-for-13 on 3-pointers. Dudukovich scored nine first half points for the Firebirds, who led for much of the half, but never by more than four points.