Lions win thriller over McClain
Fairfield erases a 9-point 4th-quarter deficit
Sunday, January 8, 2017 12:11 AM
GREENFIELD — It was a game of spurts that an overflow crowd saw play Saturday night in Greenfield between the visiting Fairfield Lions and McClain Tigers, and once the dust had settled, Fairfield emerged victorious, 57-54.
McClain’s Owen O’Connor shoots the ball over Fairfield’s Jesse Current and Tucker Ayres. (HCP Photo/Jim Jones)
Fairfield jumped out early and grabbed a 10-2 lead after a 10-0 run to start the game and increased it later in the period to 15-6 after back-to-back jumpers by Jensen Daulton.
The Lions went on to lead 18-8 after the opening period was in the books, with Klay Walker putting an exclamation mark on the frame with a long trifecta just before the buzzer sounded. In the second quarter, the Tigers regrouped to play much better, outscoring Fairfield 14-9, trimming the deficit to 27-22 at the half.
McClain freshman Dalton Mischal was a big reason for the comeback by scoring eight points in the quarter. MHS senior Jacob Starkey also turned in a nice opening half with 10 points to lead all scorers at the break.
Fairfield had balanced scoring over the first two quarters with Wyatt Evans, Jesse Current and Cody Gragg each totaling six points.
McClain came out of the locker room very aggressively on both ends to start the third quarter, using a 9-4 run of their own at one point to take the lead 39-36. Mischal was huge for the Tigers in the spurt by scoring seven of the nine points in that stretch, including a three-ball. He also connected on another three at the end of the quarter, giving McClain a 41-38 advantage.
The fourth stanza started well for the Tigers after Mischal opened with a long trifecta, his third of the game, giving him 20 points in the contest and his team a 44-38 lead. McClain continued to play well offensively and increased their lead to 49-40 later in the quarter after back-to-back buckets inside by Starkey and Owen O’Connor.
Fairfield ended the Tiger run after Cody Gragg converted two free-throws at the 4:50 mark, but Barton answered for McClain with a short jumper to push the lead back to nine points at 51-42 with just over four minutes left in regulation. After Evans connected on two free throws, moments later Daulton and Gragg both scored, and McClain’s nine point advantage was suddenly just three points at 51-48.
Two converted foul shots by Walker at the 2:41 mark pulled Fairfield to within one point 51-50, which is when the game and momentum really turned in favor of the visitors. A technical foul was then charged to a Fairfield playerm and an intentional foul was called on a McClain player, resulting in both teams adding one point.
Landree Gray then connected on a jumper to give McClain a 54-51 lead with 1:45 left to play, but Evans quickly scored for the Lions, and the Tigers’ lead was down to a point again at 54-53.
After a Fairfield timeout, the Lions got a steal and scored on a nice inside shot by Current, with the Lions regaining the advantage 55-54 with just under a minute remaining.
The Tigers had a couple of changes to score down the stretch but failed on both attempts and then had to foul. Fairfield’s Gragg iced the game when he made two free-throws in four chances at the end, giving the Lions the hard-fought 57-54 come-from-behind victory.
“This was a game of spurts and extremely physical, which the officials let both teams play on both ends, so you can’t complain about that,” Fairfield head coach Everett Snyder said. “We told our kids when they got down by eight or nine there in the fourth quarter that there was still plenty of time for us to get back into the game.
“I thought our kids did a great job after the timeout and did everything we asked by being more aggressive and pressuring the ball, which basically gave us the advantage and put us in a position to win the game. Anytime you can come over here and get a win, you always go away pretty thrilled.”
Fairfield improves to 7-2 with the win, having four players reach double-digits. Gragg had a team-high 14 points, followed by Evans, who scored 12. Daulton and Current were close behind with 11 and 10, respectively. Walker also played very well, scoring nine points, and Tucker Ayres added one.
A dejected McClain head coach Jesse Mitchell still had some positive words for his scrappy team despite the defeat.
“I can’t fault my kids’ effort tonight,” Mitchell said. “I thought down the stretch, we just didn’t handle the decision-making process very well, so we’re going to need to clean that up.
“We haven’t had any close games this year until (Saturday), and it showed, so I need to do a better job of preparing for that. I thought our man defense was pretty good at times tonight, and Mat Barton did a nice job of running the show for us. Dalton Mischal, who is just a freshman, also had a big game and also did some nice things for us.”
McClain (4-7) was led by Mischal, who had a game-high 20 points, followed by Starkey, who also hit double figures with 12. Rounding out the scoring for the Tigers were Jay Beatty 6, Mat Barton 5, Gray 4, O’Connor 4 and Brock Dean 3.
McClain was 5-of-7 from the foul line for 71 percent and was guilty of 21 turnovers for the game.