Fairfield senior Bryson Simmons prepares to shoot a 3-pointer in the Lions' win over East Clinton, Friday at Grandle Gymnasium. (HCP Photos/Stephen Forsha)
Fairfield senior Bryson Simmons prepares to shoot a 3-pointer in the Lions' win over East Clinton, Friday at Grandle Gymnasium. (HCP Photos/Stephen Forsha)
LEESBURG — Before the Fairfield Lions hosted the East Clinton Astros at Grandle Gymnasium on Friday night in their season-opening contest, there was a moment of silence observed for Chad Hodson, a former coach at a variety of levels within Fairfield athletics.

Hodson passed away Thursday, Nov. 28 after a long battle with cancer, and following what was a 70-49 win for the Lions over the East Clinton Astros, Fairfield head coach Josh Howland spoke about Hodson, who as recently as last season was a part of the varsity coaching staff of the Lions.

“It is a tough time here in Leesburg right now for the Hodson family. They are all close to our hearts,” Howland said. “Chad was on our staff for years, not just boys, but girls too, and he is the best guy I’ve ever met.

“He made a positive impact on this program, all the way down to the little league, and how he structured the little league, he made that impact. He has young kids who are in our program, and they are a great family.”

As for the season-opening game, the Lions honored Hodson with a big win in their first game. FHS didn’t play their best first half as they trailed by a 30-28 score at halftime, but that wasn’t the case for the second half.

“The number-one thing in the game for us was we were trying to force too much in the first half. Instead of getting ball reversals and running our offense, we were just looking at run-and-gun, and if it is not there that’s not our forte. We have to pull back, and we have to run our offense,” Howland said. “We have the size advantage against most of our opponents with a 6-5 kid like James Bentley, and we have to at least give him a look.

“Bryson (Simmons) shot lights-out for us too.”

The third frame changed the entire outcome of the game. Coming out of the locker room from halftime, the Lions looked and played like a whole new team as they outscored the visiting Astros, 21-6 as they went from trailing by two points to leading by two points just over the first minute of the third frame.

The Lions came out in the second half strong with Bryson Simmons tying the score at 30 off a defensive rebound, then taking the ball the length of the court for two points. A long-range jumper from Tytis Cannon — who totaled five points in the win — lifted the Lions ahead by a 32-30 score with 6:58 on the third-quarter clock.

Simmons finished with 25 points to led the Lions in scoring for the night. He made 11 two-point field goals and had one 3-pointer.

East Clinton got back to within one point of the Lions, but that didn’t last long as Simmons made it a three-point lead once again, only to see the Astros make it a 35-34 score off points in the paint.

With around 4:30 left in the third frame, the Lions went on a tear, scoring the next 12 points for a 47-34 advantage, increasing their one-point advantage to 13 points with 1:10 left in the quarter. Fairfield began the run with a layup by Simmons, who gained the ball off a steal and assist by Wyatt Willey, as he finished the game with six points.

Next came a layup by James Bentley with 4:02 left in the frame for a 39-34 lead, as Bentley ended the game with 18 points, with seven two-point baskets and a 4-of-5 performance from the free-throw line.

Following a timeout by the Astros, Connor Priest added two points with a fast-break layup after stealing the ball. Priest totaled four points for the Lions.

A steal and layup from Bentley pushed the FHS advantage to 43-34 as he took the ball full-court, and when driving to the hoop, switched directions from left to right for the two points past his defender.

A jumper by Reese Teeters made it a 45-34 Lions lead with 1:28 left in the third, with Teeters finishing the game with six points.

Simmons made a layup to force the Astros to call a timeout with 1:09 on the clock, which ended the 12-0 run for the Lions. East Clinton scored two points following the stoppage in play, but the final two points of the third were scored by Bentley for the 13-point advantage at 49-36.

“We made a defensive change, and we did go to zone for the most part in the second half,” Howland said. “We went to a 2-3 zone, and that seemed to stop the scoring for them as well. Offensively, to only put up 28 in the first half, that isn’t us.”

In the fourth frame, the Lions again added another 21 points to their side of the scoreboard, while East Clinton scored 12 points in the final eight minutes. Of the 21 points in the fourth, Simmons scored eight of them off four two-point baskets. Bentley scored four points in the fourth off two buckets, as did Tucker Watson.

Also in the fourth quarter, Willey sank a 3-pointer with 3:29 on the clock, and Teeters scored two points as well. For the game, the Lions totaled 27 two-point baskets, four 3-pointers and they were 4-of-5 from the free-throw line.

As for the first half, the Lions led 19-13 at the end of the first frame with seven of the points by Simmons, including a 3-pointer. Bentley also had seven points in the first quarter with three free throws and two two-point field goals. Willey swished a 3-pointer in the opening frame, and Cannon added two points.

The nine-point second frame for the Lions included four points from Priest, two points each by Teeters and Simmons and one point off a free-throw conversion by Bentley.

The Astros scored 13 points in the first quarter and 17 points in the second frame. They were led for the entire game in scoring by Branson Smith with 27 points, with 20 points coming in the first two quarters.

The Lions held Smith scoreless in the third and allowed only seven points by him in the fourth. Smith totaled seven two-point baskets, three 3-pointers and he was 4-of-5 with his free-throw shooting.

“The change with how we played him in the second half was just knowing where he was at,” Howland said. “For the teams we play in our league that have those scorers like (Smith) who are pretty darn accurate, we want to get good at that actually.

“Paint Valley will have the same thing, but we spent a lot of time practicing for his style of play, and we came out in the first half and didn’t execute, but we did in the second half.”

Next for the Lions is a road game on Tuesday, Dec. 3 in Bainbridge against the Paint Valley Bearcats in a non-conference game.

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JV FINAL: Fairfield 35, East Clinton 31

In the JV game on Friday at Grandle Gymnasium, the Fairfield Lions defeated the East Clinton Astros, 35-31. Koben Zink led the FHS JV team with 17 points, followed by Wyatt Collins and Zane Taylor with five points each.

Scoring two points each in the JV win for Fairfield were Jacob Morgan, Owen Larrick, Brayden Zimmerman and Brandon Harrison.

Logan Swayne led East Clinton in the JV scoring with 17 points. There was no freshman game played on Friday night.