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Bench play key to Fairfield win over Whiteoak

Lead Summary
MOWRYSTOWN — The second round of the Southern Hills League rivalry between the Fairfield Lions and Whiteoak Wildcats was full of points in the first half – 70, to be exact – but it was the Lions who landed the knockout punch in the final two quarters as the Lions took home a 71-48 Southern Hills League win over host Whiteoak.

Though each team won a game against one another this season (WHS defeated FHS 55-49 on Dec. 14, 2010), the teams now have played each other five times since Jan. 11, 2010, with the Wildcats winning three of the five meetings. The Lions have won two of the last three games, with one being in the sectional tournament last season.

On Friday night at Whiteoak High School, the Lions outscored WHS 38-32 after the first two quarters but controlled the second half at 33-16.

After the third frame, FHS led 56-43.

The Lions were first to score in the third, increasing their lead to eight points with free throws from Chris Cox. Cox didn't play in the first meeting earlier this season as he was out due to injury. In their previous three meetings last season, Cox averaged 25 ppg against the Wildcats. This time around, Cox finished with a game-high 17 points, including one 3-pointer, which came in the opening quarter.

Fairfield head coach Matt Carson credited his bench following the game for the way they contributed to the win. Four players came off the bench to score points.

"We had the normal contributors tonight with double-digit scoring, but I'll tell you right now, bench play is what made the difference (Friday)," an inspired Carson said. "Everyone who come in off the bench contributed in some way. This is a team effort, and I applaud those kids for playing their role. The bench was the key to this win. They stepped up and gave us solid minutes."

Cox's free throws at the 5:52 mark of the third jump-started a 9-2 run by FHS, where their lead increased to 13 points with 3:41 left in the quarter. Scoring in that time were Cody Ferrell, Dakota Hargrave and Cody Tolle (who sank a 3-pointer at the 4:08 mark).

At the 2:27 mark of the third, Mike Carraher made a 3-point shot for WHS, bringing WHS within 10 points of the FHS lead. Carraher led WHS with 13 points, scoring 10 in the first half.

That quickly changed with a 7-2 quick scoring run by FHS with Cox, Ian Adams (with the assist from Quentin Williams) and Cole Putnam putting FHS up 56-41 with nine seconds left in the quarter. Whiteoak's Wes Stratton sank a shot at the buzzer.

In the final frame, FHS outscored WHS 15-5, as Cameron Rolark scored seven points in the fourth for the Lions. Also scoring in the fourth for FHS were Austin Hildebrant, Ferrell and Cox. Rolark and Ferrell each finished with 15 points.

Turnovers and missed opportunities hurt the Wildcats' chances at gaining a win. WHS was 2-of-13 from the free-throw line, as Logan Morris and Blake Trublood each made a free throw for WHS.

"Going 2-of-13 from the free-throw line is never going to win you any games. We seemed we wanted to run, instead of us taking our time, getting set and a good look," WHS head coach Tom Wessner said. "We just kept throwing it at the basket, and it didn't go in, and we kept doing the same thing over and over again."

The lack of converting shots from the foul line, while only getting 13 chances, was a topic Wessner elaborated on following the game. Before Friday, the Wildcats had free throw performance of 22-of-29, 10-of-15, 11-of-14 and 11-of-15 in their last four games since going 5-of-16 against Hillsboro.

"Only getting 13 attempts shows we didn't try to take the ball to the basket," Wessner said. "We didn't get the ball inside. When you don't make layups or hit free throws, you are going to be in trouble."

Carson talked about the differences of the first half and second half, as the Lions gave up 32 points in the first two quarters to the Wildcats.

"We were overextending our zone too much, and credit Coach Wessner, they had our press. They sliced through it like butter," Carson said. "We have to make some adjustments on that in the future. We made some adjustments to our zone at halftime, which I think made a difference in the ball game.

"County rivalry, big game, we knew they (WHS) were going to come out swinging, we were going to swing right back. It was a game full of runs in the first half, but we settled down and did our thing in the second half."

In the opening eight minutes, the game was tied at four early on, but a 3-pointer from Williams broke the tie, and with under four minutes left in the first, Cox put the Lions up 14-8.

Whiteoak (3-3, 4-7) had five players add to their total in the first, with Joe Michael scoring four and Mike Carraher adding six points. Gage Carraher had two points in the same quarter, along with Luke Taggert making a 3-pointer and Doc Seip making two two-point baskets. Seip finished with 10 points for the game.

In the second quarter for WHS, Taggert made two more 3-pointers, tying the game at 30 with 2:19 left in the second.  

Williams answered with a 3-pointer for FHS and Cox converted a three-point play. Tolle scored the final points of the first half to put FHS up by six points.

Since their last meeting, the Lions have improved their overall level of play, winning three of their last four games.

"Having Chris back makes a big difference, but this was a total team effort," Carson said. "Everybody contributed and did something great. That's what we have to do in order to be successful. Everybody had to chip in.

The win lifts FHS to 3-3 in the SHL and 3-7 overall. WHS falls to 3-3 in league play and 4-7 overall.

In JV play, FHS won 63-38. FHS had four players in double figures with Brad Clay leading with 17 points. Stephen Barcus had 14 points, followed with Wes Willey with 12 and Blake Hildebrant with 10. Leading WHS were Jon Fox with 22 points and Steven Meyers with 11.[[In-content Ad]]

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