Jeff Sims has high goals for his Fairfield High School boys basketball program, so it’s time for some soul-searching.
The Indians completed their third straight losing season Saturday in frustrating fashion, dropping a 57-48 overtime decision to Northwest in a Division I sectional opener at Lakota West.
“For us, it’s about hanging a banner and cutting down nets, and we’re not there right now,” said Sims, whose team finished 7-16 in his second year at the helm. “I’d be really stupid as a coach not to say we need to take a look at everything we’re doing and make us push back toward that. And that’ll happen.
“I love our seniors. I like our young kids. I feel like we have some good things happening. But how can you go 7-16 and say you’re not going to make some changes? That’s just not acceptable. We’re going to make sure we can get into some situations that are going to push us into a time where we can compete like we should in the top of the (Greater Miami Conference) and make tournament runs.”
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Fairfield ended the campaign with a five-game losing streak and fell to Northwest, the Southwest Ohio Conference champion, for the second time in 2017-18.
Blake Spaulding missed a jumper and Tink English couldn’t connect on a desperation stickback attempt in the final seconds of regulation for the Indians. They made no field goals in OT, getting outscored 12-3.
An English free throw gave Fairfield its last lead (46-45) with 3:49 remaining in overtime. Steven Grau responded with a 3-pointer and a driving layup for the Knights, who never trailed again.
“It’s a lesson to learn for when we come back out next year,” said Indians junior forward Devin Turner, who had 10 points and 14 rebounds. “We started ticking down in the fourth quarter and overtime. When they made those two buckets, we gave up and started taking terrible shots. That’s my fault. I could’ve been a better leader.”
English and Spaulding both scored 13 points as 18th-seeded Fairfield shot just 32.1 percent from the field and made 9 of 16 free throws. Spaulding added seven boards and four assists.
“We say it a lot, but it’s a microcosm of our season a little bit,” Sims said. “We don’t give up. We play hard. We have some deficiencies and our decision-making isn’t great at times, but we’re going downhill and attacking and being aggressive. We just don’t always finish the way we want.”
Grau collected 13 of his game-high 18 points in the last 11 minutes for Northwest (14-9), the No. 16 seed. Kaleb Williams contributed 13 points and five rebounds to the winning cause, and point guard Jamique Dogan added 9 points and four assists.
“We did some dumb stuff like we’ve done all year long, but we gutted it out, grinded it out, whatever term you want to use, and got a win,” Knights coach Nick Argentati said. “I’m proud of our guys. We made free throws tonight, which has been an Achilles heel of ours all year. That was the key to the game.”
Northwest converted 15 of 20 free throws, 7 of 8 in OT. The Knights shot 57.5 percent from the line during the regular season.
Argentati had special praise for Grau, Keyshawn Bourrage (who grabbed 15 rebounds) and Dogan.
Third-seeded Oak Hills (16-6) is up next for Northwest in Wednesday’s sectional semifinals at West. Game time is 6 p.m.
“If we could win Wednesday, it would probably be as big a win as Northwest basketball has had in a long time,” Argentati said. “But we know what we’re facing. Oak Hills is going to be incredibly sound on defense. They’re going to run great offense. We have to play better than we did tonight. We played hard, but we still did some bonehead things that we need to do better.”
Sims said the Knights shouldn’t be taken lightly.
“When you lose, you think about your team, but Nick’s done a really good job there,” Sims said. “They make some shots and they take the right ones, and they’re aggressive on the defensive end. There’s a reason why they’ve only lost one conference game.”
Spaulding was the only senior in the Indians’ starting lineup Saturday. Fairfield will lose three other players to graduation: Kyle Schimpf, Chase Pennington and Noah Bauman.
NORTHWEST (14-9): Steven Grau 6 4 18, Jamique Dogan 4 1 9, Tyre McKinney 2 1 6, Micah Wilkins 2 2 7, Kaleb Williams 4 5 13, Keyshawn Bourrage 1 2 4. Totals: 19-15-57
FAIRFIELD (7-16): Zavian Ricks 2 1 6, Devin Turner 3 4 10, Blake Spaulding 5 2 13, Peyton Brown 1 0 3, Tink English 5 1 13, Chase Pennington 1 1 3. Totals: 17-9-48
3-pointers: N 4 (Grau 2, McKinney, Wilkins), F 5 (English 2, Ricks, Spaulding, Brown)