Prep basketball: Shooting woes sink Fairfield in opener against Elder

Elder’s Joe Royer (12) and Bryson Merz (23) batlle for the ball with Fairfield’s Devin Turner (0) and Caleb Pryce (5) during Friday night’s game at the Fairfield Arena. Elder won 62-55. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

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Elder’s Joe Royer (12) and Bryson Merz (23) batlle for the ball with Fairfield’s Devin Turner (0) and Caleb Pryce (5) during Friday night’s game at the Fairfield Arena. Elder won 62-55. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

FAIRFIELD — Fairfield High School boys basketball coach Jeff Sims had no problem finding positives after watching his Indians drop their season opener 62-55 to visiting Elder on Friday night.

“We had some guys who had not played in a varsity game, and they played really, really well,” Sims said. “It came down to some crunch situational type things, and Elder got the ball to some guys who made plays at the right time.”

Fairfield was done in by poor shooting, especially at the free-throw line. The Tribe managed to convert only 10-of-24 freebies while the Panthers hit 16-of-22, including 8-of-13 in the fourth quarter.

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“We’re going to be a good free-throw shooting team,” Sims said. “We just need the right guys taking them. If we get the right guys taking them, we will be OK.”

The Indians were only 19-of-57 from the field and turned the ball over 16 times. Elder sank 20-of-38 field goals and only had 10 turnovers.

Peyton Brown led all scorers with 19 points for Fairfield, while teammate Zavian Ricks added 12 points and five assists. Returning leading scorer Devin Turner had nine points, all in the second half, after sitting all but three minutes of the first half in foul trouble.

“(Brown) is going to have a big year,” Sims said. “(Turner) is going to be big for us. We have guys who can score. We just need to lock in on the defensive end and make sure we run the offense we want.”

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Fairfield’s Zavian Ricks is fouled by Elder’s Anthony Holmes during Friday night’s game at the Fairfield Arena. Elder won 62-55. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Fairfield’s Zavian Ricks is fouled by Elder’s Anthony Holmes during Friday night’s game at the Fairfield Arena. Elder won 62-55. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

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Fairfield’s Zavian Ricks is fouled by Elder’s Anthony Holmes during Friday night’s game at the Fairfield Arena. Elder won 62-55. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Elder trailed 28-23 in the third period, but rallied behind the play of point guard Willard Cluxton. He had all 12 of his points in the second half, and Panthers coach Joe Schoenfeld said his leadership was key.

“(Willard) has to be an important player for us,” Schoenfeld said. “He is our point guard and has to handle the ball for us. Fairfield did a good job guarding him, trying to wear him out, but he had a really good second half.”

Junior guard Matthew Luebbe led the Panthers with 13 points, while junior guard Jake Byrne added 12. Junior Joe Royer had seven points and eight boards, while Anthony Holmes chipped in five points and seven rebounds.

Both coaches agreed the second-half shots made by Elder were key. Each time Fairfield rallied, the Panthers would strike with big 3-pointers or drives to the basket.

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Fairfield’s Peyton Brown drives to the hoop between Elder’s Bryson Merz (left) and Matthew Luebbe on Friday night at the Fairfield Arena. Elder won 62-55. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Fairfield’s Peyton Brown drives to the hoop between Elder’s Bryson Merz (left) and Matthew Luebbe on Friday night at the Fairfield Arena. Elder won 62-55. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

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Fairfield’s Peyton Brown drives to the hoop between Elder’s Bryson Merz (left) and Matthew Luebbe on Friday night at the Fairfield Arena. Elder won 62-55. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

“We made some big shots,” Schoenfeld said. “We had some corner 3s. We made the extra pass and guys hit shots. It was a nice game to hit those as we needed them since Fairfield is really good. It seemed like both teams were going bang bang making shots and it was like Jeezil Petes. We just made the last couple of them.”

“(Elder) was big in situations,” Sims said. “They got the ball to the right people at the right time. I thought we were doing that as well, but at the end we went to some possession where we just chucked it. We were up five in the third quarter and just had bad possessions. We will get better every game. We are going to play a lot of close games. We just didn’t do it tonight.”

Elder outscored Fairfield 25-19 in the final quarter, a stretch that Sims said he doesn’t want to see again. He said his team’s inexperience showed in the final stanza on both ends of the court.

“We just can’t go possessions where we make one pass and a shot,” Sims said. “We have to contain the dribbler. We should be able to stay in front of them, but they have some guys who are really sharp, really crafty, and they create for others. We just needed to contain them. We can’t give up 25 points in a quarter.”

Fairfield led 36-34 late in the third quarter, but gave up a three-point play to Cluxton with six seconds left. Elder only trailed once more the rest of the way.

“Some of the experience we got last year helped,” Schoenfeld said. “We made shots. We shot free throws well. Everytime we needed them, we made clutch free throws.”

Steven Taylor had nine points and eight rebounds for the Indians. DaShaun Simpkins pulled down seven caroms.

On Tuesday, Fairfield will host Northwest and Elder will travel to Badin.

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Fairfield’s Zavian Ricks dribbles the ball during Friday night’s 62-55 loss to visiting Elder at the Fairfield Arena. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Fairfield’s Zavian Ricks dribbles the ball during Friday night’s 62-55 loss to visiting Elder at the Fairfield Arena. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

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Fairfield’s Zavian Ricks dribbles the ball during Friday night’s 62-55 loss to visiting Elder at the Fairfield Arena. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

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