Fairfield's Tucker Ayres drives to the basket for two points in the Lions' win against North Adams, Tuesday night at Grandle Gymnasium. Ayres led the Lions with 20 points. (HCP Photo/Stephen Forsha)
Fairfield's Tucker Ayres drives to the basket for two points in the Lions' win against North Adams, Tuesday night at Grandle Gymnasium. Ayres led the Lions with 20 points. (HCP Photo/Stephen Forsha)
Fairfield’s loss on Friday night was a bump in the road in the Southern Hills Athletic Conference standings because they returned to the court on Tuesday night and gained another conference win by defeating the North Adams Green Devils, 69-59.

The win by the Lions in front of their home fans at Grandle Gymnasium improved their record to 6-1 overall and saw them stay in a tie with Peebles for first place in the SHAC Division II standings with a 4-1 mark.

Fairfield gained the conference win with a strong offensive effort and their ability to play man-to-man defense, which showcased their strength against a tough-minded North Adams team who played with a strong effort all game long.

“In the third quarter, we played hard,” FHS head coach Josh Howland said. “Most of the last six quarters (before the third), we came out flat compared to what we were used to giving. Then the third they finally began to wake up, and we saw the effort we want to see.

“We didn’t have to go to zone, and we could play man because everybody owned their spot … they wanted to win the one-on-one battle, and if you can win one-on-one battles, you don’t have to go to zone and can play man. If we play man, that is our game because we can get steals up top instead of waiting on and getting in to get rebounds.”

In fact, it was the visiting Green Devils who scored their first four points of the game, only to see the Lions answer those points by tying the score at 4-4 with free throws from Tucker Ayres and Cody Gragg. Both Ayres and Gragg ended up as the top two leading scorers in the game for the Lions, with Ayres totaling 20 points and Gragg finishing with 16 points.

Eventually, it was the Green Devils who took the momentum in the game in the middle stages of the first, going on a 10-0 run from the 5:43 mark to the 4:24 mark, which began with a layup from Colt Shoemaker, followed by a 3-pointer by Ryan Shupert. Next were two points off a put-back basket by Shoemaker, and a 3-pointer from Elijah Young gave the Green Devils a 14-6 lead with 4:24 on the clock and forcing the Lions to call a timeout.

Following the timeout, the Lions had two points from Wyatt Willey, and after a layup by the Green Devils, it was Gragg who made it an eight-point game once again. That was short-lived with NAHS sinking a jumper, only to be answered with a jumper from Ayres. The first concluded with both teams gaining a few more points, but a 7-3 run to end the first for the Lions left the Green Devils ahead 23-19.

Fairfield and North Adams played close throughout the second quarter with the Lions trailing by as many as eight points in the quarter with 1:00 on the clock to trailing by just a single point when halftime arrived by a 38-37 score.

The Lions scored seven straight points in a matter of 41 seconds of game play. The scoring began with a three-point play from Sam Buddelmeyer with 43.8 left in the quarter, followed by a layup off a fast break from Bryson Simmons. Next were two free throw conversions by Buddelmeyer for the 38-37 score.

Buddelmeyer and Simmons also finished with 14 points each, giving the Lions four players with double-digit scoring in the SHAC win.

The Lions took over in the third quarter — their best eight-minute span of the game — as they went from trailing by one point at halftime to leading 58-46 after three frames, scoring 21 points in the third, while allowing just eight.

FHS tied the game at 38 off a free throw from Buddelmeyer 22 seconds into the second half, and North Adams regained the lead with a free throw around one minute later. FHS grabbed the lead back with two points from Buddelmeyer, and once the Lions took a 40-39 lead, they didn’t look back for the remainder of the quarter or the game as they didn’t relinquish the lead.

After the two points from Buddelmeyer, Ayres scored two points in the paint, and following Willey taking a charge at the 5:08 mark, the Lions took the ensuing possession and scored two points off a jumper by Gragg with 4:51 left in the quarter for a lead of 44-39.

As the quarter continued, the Green Devils tied the score at 45, but the Lions broke the tie with a layup by James Bentley, and with two free throws by Simmons the Lions built a four-point advantage. After NAHS cut the FHS lead to three points, the Lions ended the third with nine straight points in a span of 2:12 off baskets from Buddelmeyer, Gragg, Simmons, Quinton Beatty and Ayres.

The Lions were outscored 13-11 in the fourth, having a lead by as many as 14 points and eventually winning by 10 points. North Adams got to within six points of the Lions in the fourth with 1:51 left in regulation. FHS had points from Gragg, Willey, Simmons and Ayres in the fourth frame.

“The big thing is this is what it takes to win,” Howland said of his team’s play in the second half. “One thing, though, is we have to get better at closing out games with our free throws. If we would have made more at the end, we could have put them away earlier.”

For the game, the Lions finished 24-of-36 from the free-throw line and had 21 two-point baskets, along with one 3-pointer. NAHS went 11-of-15 from the free-throw line, while also tallying 15 two-point buckets and six 3-pointers. Young led them with 16 points, while Shoemaker and Austin McCormick each scored 10 points.

Next for the Lions is a non-conference game on Thursday at Georgetown.