Fairfield's Connor Priest battles to the hoop against Peebles, Tuesday. (HCP Photo/Stephen Forsha)
Fairfield's Connor Priest battles to the hoop against Peebles, Tuesday. (HCP Photo/Stephen Forsha)
LEESBURG — The Fairfield Lions were unable to overcome the shooting prowess of the visiting Peebles Indians Tuesday night as the Indians shot 50-percent from the field in the first half, leading to a Fairfield loss by an 80-72 score at Grandle Gymnasium.

The Lions (2-4, 7-5) played close with the Indians at various times in the game, even leading for a moment in the first quarter, but ultimately trailing by six points when the first came to a close at 18-12.

Peebles (7-2, 11-2) struck early with a 3-pointer from Dawson Mills, followed by a basket from Hunter Ruckel for a 5-0 lead less than two minutes into the game. The Lions scored their first points with a basket by Bryson Simmons, but the Indians were there to answer as Easton Wesley scored two points in the paint.

Following a timeout, Tytis Cannon sank a 3-pointer for the home Lions, then Wesley and James Bentley exchanged baskets, as both No. 50s for their respective teams made it a 9-7 score (in favor of Peebles) with 2:28 left in the opening quarter. Bentley totaled 17 points for FHS, leading the Lions in scoring against Peebles, as he collected a double-double with 10 rebounds.

“James played hard the entire game. I thought our defensive rotation in the second and third quarter wasn’t quite there, and it cost us,” Fairfield head coach Josh Howland said. “Peebles can shoot it. You can tell they are putting work in and getting into the gym and shooting. That is a high-level team right there.

“I’m proud of our boys’ resiliency. They don’t have quit in them, and they are a great group of young men. They work hard in practice every day, and they don’t quit.”

The Lions then made another 3-pointer, this one by Reese Teeters, to put the Lions ahead 10-9 with the scoreboard reading 1:45. Peebles took back the lead with two free throws from Oakley Burba, but FHS regained the lead for the second and final time in the game with a layup by Bentley at the 1:21 mark of the first quarter.

Peebles ended the first quarter with seven straight unanswered points from Ruckel, as the senior made a jumper, a layup and topped that with a 3-pointer with 5.0 left in the quarter for a 18-12 score in favor of the visiting team. Ruckel finished the game with 26 points, making seven two-point baskets and four 3-pointers.

The Indians won the second frame at 20-16 with the Lions scoring first with two free throws by Simmons, only to see Ruckel sink a basket for Peebles, pushing the PHS lead to 20-14. Cannon answered with five straight points (including a 3-pointer), bringing the Lions to within a point of tying the score at 20-19 with 5:37 left in the second. Cannon ended the game with 13 points.

Later in the quarter, the Lions were back to within a point of Peebles with a layup by Simmons, off a near full-court pass from Wyatt Willey, to make it a 22-21 score with 4:41 left in the frame. Willey wrapped up the game with 11 points, and teammate Simmons totaled 13 points.

The Indians answered with consecutive three-point plays by Westin Browning, and after two points by Fairfield’s Cannon, the Indians added treys from both Browning and Ruckel for a 34-32 lead with 2:26 remaining in the first half.

“They (Peebles) did an excellent job of setting off the ball screens for Ruckel, and we weren’t very successful getting through the screens, and that was the difference,” Howland said. “Hats off to Ruckel, that kid is a lights-out shooter and we knew that, and he came to play tonight. I also thought Browning did a nice job attacking the basket. We had a hard time helping off, and typically we are a much better help defense than that.”

Fairfield came back with two free throws from Connor Priest and a basket by Bentley, only to see the Indians answer with four straight points. The final point of the second frame was scored by Bentley with a free throw, making it a 38-28 deficit for the Lions at halftime.

Then came the third frame were Peebles outscored Fairfield, 23-17, but in the fourth, it was Fairfield Fairfield outscoring the Indians, 27-19.

For the Lions in the third, they trailed by as many as 21 points on two occasions. Scoring points for the Lions in the third were Tucker Watson (two), Willey (seven points, including a 3-pointer), Priest (two) and Bentley (six). For the game, Priest scored nine points.

In the early stages of the third for the Indians, Ruckel scored his 1,000th career point with a basket at the 7:27 mark of the quarter, putting the Indians ahead, 43-30. Ruckel scored eight points in the third.

Others to score points for PHS in the third were Mills (seven) and Browning (six). For the entire game, Mills totaled 12 points, and Browning finished with 25 points.

In the fourth for the Lions, Teeters tallied four points, Cannon made a 3-pointer, Willey added five points, Simmons scored seven points, Priest collected five points and Bentley tacked on four points.

The Indians had two points each in the final frame by Mills and Ruckel, while Alex Camp scored eight points from the free-throw line (totaling 10 points for the game), Browning scored six points and Wesley added two points.

As a team, the Lions totaled 21 two-point baskets, seven 3-pointers and they were 9-of-10 from the free-throw line. Peebles finished with 20 two-point baskets, seven 3-pointers and were 19-of-22 from the free-throw line. The Indians also only committed six turnovers, while the Lions had 16 turnovers.

Next for the Lions is a game on Friday, Jan. 17 on the road at Whiteoak in an SHAC and Highland County rivalry game.