Fairfield's Gabe Fouch powers his way to the basket while being defended by Hillsboro's Bryce Parsons, Tuesday at Grandle Gymnasium. (HCP Photos/Stephen Forsha)
Fairfield's Gabe Fouch powers his way to the basket while being defended by Hillsboro's Bryce Parsons, Tuesday at Grandle Gymnasium. (HCP Photos/Stephen Forsha)
LEESBURG — Intensity was on hand Tuesday night in front of a packed Grandle Gymnasium, as the No. 2 state-ranked Fairfield Lions hosted a Highland County rival, the Hillsboro Indians, for their annual non-conference showdown.

The Lions entered the game as not only the No. 2 state-ranked team in Division IV, but they also entered the game with 11 wins and zero losses. When the final buzzer sounded, the Lions were still undefeated as they won against the Indians —  with the help of a strong second-half surge — by a 59-37 score. 

The game was closely played in the first half,as each team played well in either the first or second frame. The Lions led 20-9 at the end of the first quarter, but the Indians — who are coached by former Fairfield head coach Josh Howland — battled back in the second frame to make it a 24-20 deficit at halftime for the visiting Indians. 

In the first frame the Lions controlled the pace of the game with their 20-point effort, while they held the Indians to nine points for their 20-9 first-quarter lead after eight minutes of action. Larkin Friend and Wyatt Collins were first to hit the scoreboard with two points each for Fairfield, and the Indians scored their first point with a free throw made by Deegan Bloomfield with 6:03 left in the quarter.

Fairfield responded with a layup from Gunner Bennington, but the Indians came back with a 3-pointer from Tate Davis at the 4:49 mark for a 6-4 score still in favor of the Lions. Bennington had a block for the Lions to keep the Indians out of the scoring column, and then came a 3-pointer by TJ Mootz for Fairfield with 3:37 left on the first-quarter clock. 

Nic Burns of HHS answered with a trey of his own, but from the 3:11 mark of the first quarter until the end of the frame, the Lions went on an 11-2 run for their 11-point lead. The scoring run started with two baskets by Friend — including an underhanded shot near the basket — plus a layup by House, a 3-pointer from Mootz and two more points from Friend. Hillsboro’s two points in the Fairfield run came off a basket by Bryce Parsons. 

With the Lions in front by 11 points to start the second frame, the visiting Indians had different plans in the second quarter as they cut the 11-point deficit facing them to just two points by the time the second frame came to a close. 

Hillsboro outscored the Lions 13-4 in the second quarter, starting with a basket by Parsons less than a minute into the frame. Fairfield and the Indians exchanged baskets as Friend threw the ball off an HHS player’s back on an inbounds pass, grabbed the basketball and made a two-point basket underneath the hoop to regain the 11-point lead. 

HHS answered with a bucket from Parsons, and the Lions came back with two points off a jumper by Bennington, though the basket at the 6:17 mark of the second frame would be the last basket of the first half for the Lions, as they built a 24-13 lead. 

After Dorian Stewart took a charge for the Indians with 5:54 on the clock, HHS started to gain some momentum with two points off a bucket by Davis, a followed later by a 3-pointer by Burns, a steal and layup from Parsons and two more points by Burns with a basket under the hoop with 1:13 left, giving the Indians a two-point deficit when halftime arrived at 24-22.

Fairfield came out of the locker room following halftime and played like the team they were in the first frame, as the Division IV No. 2 state-ranked Lions outscored Hillsboro 14-4 in the third quarter for a 38-26 lead. 

The Lions started the third quarter with a 3-pointer by Bennington, and though Hillsboro’s Steven Kibler answered with a basket while being fouled, the Lions scored the next nine points from the 5:30 mark to the 2:19 mark of the third with four points from Friend, a 3-pointer by Collins and two points scored by House for a 36-24 lead.

HHS broke up the scoring run of Fairfield with two points from Kibler on a put-back basket, but the quarter ended with a turnaround jumper by Friend for the 38-26 lead. 

The Lions kept that same pace in the fourth quarter by outscoring the Indians 21-11 in the final frame. For HHS, they had four points in the fourth by Burns, six points from Parsons and one point by Brayden Hunter. 

In the fourth quarter, Fairfield saw Tytis Cannon score all 11 of his points in the final frame, making five two-point baskets and a free throw. Mootz sank a 3-pointer in the quarter, Gabe Fouch also made a 3-pointer in the fourth frame, and with two points each were Friend and House. 

As a team, the Lions made 20 two-point baskets, six 3-pointers and were 1-of-2 from the free-throw line. Friend led the Lions with 18 points, making nine two-point baskets. 

Cannon ended the game with 11 points, Mootz totaled nine points off three 3-pointers and Bennington scored seven points in the win. Also for the Lions, other final scoring totals included House with six points, Collins with five points and Fouch with three points. 

HHS was led in scoring by Parsons with 14 points, as he made seven two-point baskets, while Burns totaled 12 points off three two-point baskets and two 3-pointers. 

Other final scoring totals for HHS included Davis with five points, Kibler with four points, and with one point each were Hunter and Bloomfield. 

Hillsboro as a team totaled 13 two-point baskets, three 3-pointers and were 2-of-6 from the free-throw line. 

The win by the Lions keeps them undefeated at 12-0 overall, as they are 7-0 in the Southern Hills Athletic Conference, first place in the Division I standings. The Indians move to 5-10 overall, and they are 2-5 in the Frontier Athletic Conference. 

Next from the Lions is an away game on Friday, Jan. 20 at Manchester in SHAC action. Then, on Saturday, Jan. 21 the Lions will travel to Southeastern to face the Panthers in non-conference play. FHS will play a third straight road game on Tuesday, Jan. 24 at Fayetteville against the Rockets in SHAC action. All three games are scheduled to start around 7:30 p.m. 

For HHS, they are next scheduled to face Chillicothe at home Friday, Jan. 20. Their Saturday, Jan. 21 nonconference game at Peebles has been postponed to Feb. 14.