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Indians survive county rivalry against Lions

Lead Summary
LEESBURG — The Highland County rivalry matchup between the Fairfield Lions and Hillsboro Indians was full of scoring runs, along with a packed Grandle Gymnasium in Leesburg. But it was the Indians who fought off each and every attack by the Lions, taking home a 62-55 non-league win Tuesday night.

The win lifts the Indians to 12-7 overall, while the Lions, who were playing without the services of Cameron Rolark, one of their top scorers, fell to 8-10 overall.

The win by the Indians helps prepare them for their final regular season showdown on Friday night at Hillsboro High School. HHS has the opportunity to become the first Tribe team since the 1989-90 season to win a South Central Ohio League boys basketball championship, if they can defeat the London Red Raiders.

As for the Lions, they have two regular season games left on the schedule, traveling to Eastern Brown this Friday and hosting the Manchester Greyhounds in a makeup game on Saturday night.  

On Tuesday, following a pregame presentation honoring Ernie Blankenship for his 52 years of high school broadcasting, plus a ceremony honoring all the senior athletes and their parents, the intensity stepped up tremendously in the building.

Once the first frame was wrapped up, it was the Indians leading 15-14, but not without some high speed and physical basketball.

Hillsboro jumped out to a 15-4 lead with 2:17 left in the quarter. In the run, Hillsboro's Jarrod Hart made the first bucket, followed with a 3-pointer from Eli Hogsett to put HHS up 5-0.

Hart finished with 15 points, with Hogsett finishing with eight.

"I thought our kids came out and played well. We banked in a couple shots early to get us going, and I thought the main thing was that Leesburg came out and played hard," HHS head coach Tim Davis said. "We were kind of impatient on the offensive end a little bit, but at the end of the (first) half we started to slow down and get it inside their zone."

After a quick basket by Fairfield's Cody Ferrell, it was Hart who sparked the Tribe with four straight points. Ferrell again scored for the Indians, but Hart attacked the the Lions once again, this time from beyond the arc, sinking a 3-pointer with 3:41 left in the quarter. Aric Carroll put HHS up 15-4 with a 3-pointer, forcing a timeout by the Lions. Carroll finished with 16 points.

The timeout turned out to be what the Lions needed, as FHS head coach Matt Carson told his team to slow down and play their brand of basketball.  

What happened next for the Lions turned around the the outlook of the game. The Lions proceeded to go on an 11-0 run with Chris Cox scoring the first seven points of the run, including a 3-pointer with 1:15 left in the frame. Cox finished with 12 points.

"I just told them to settle down," Carson said of what he told his team during the timeout. "We kind of get a little wound up sometimes, so I just said 'hey, let's be calm.'"

Once the trey by Cox put FHS within five points of tying the game, it was Ferrell who scored a game-high 19 points, and Ian Adams who made inside points to bring the Lions within one point of tying the game once the quarter ended. Adams finished with 13 points.

"I knew we weren't going to fold because we haven't all year. Every time we get knocked down, we get back up, but we have to learn to not dig ourselves a hole, especially against a good ball team like this," Carson said.  

In the second, the Indians pulled away just a little bit more, leading 32-26 after the buzzer sounded. Getting to that point, HHS made four 3-pointers in the game, all within the first three minutes of the quarter.

The Lions' scoring run of 11 points turned into 13 points total as Cox sank an inside basket five seconds into the quarter, putting the Lions up for the first time in the game at 16-15.

The lead didn't last long, and the Lions never led again after Devante Ames made a 3-pointer, followed with a 3-pointer from teammate Tyrand Cumberland. Ames made another 3-ball for the Tribe with 6:21 remaining to put HHS up 24-17. Cumberland finished with 11 points, and Ames tallied 10.

With 5:11 left, the Indians continued their scoring from the three-point line with a trifecta by Carroll, increasing the Indians' lead to eight points.

"Playing a zone, we knew Hillsboro was going to shoot the three, I just don't feel like we did a good job fighting through their screens at times in the first half. They also were more physical than we were, which is disappointing to me. I thought we had the height and size to play more physical than them, but we couldn't do that tonight."

FHS came back with a 7-0 run of their own, with Quentin Williams, Adams and Cox scoring, bringing the Lions within one point of tying the game at 27-26.

But the Indians went on a run to end the quarter, scoring the final six points from Carroll and Chase Gilliland.

Then the second half happened with the Indians gaining a lead of 50-32 after three quarters, but the Lions didn't quit, as they came back and made the game interesting in the fourth frame.

"In the second half we were able to build a lead, we went to a 2-3 zone, to give them a different look to neutralize their size a little bit, and we were able to get some stops. Our defense players did a nice job tonight and I thought we boxed out well on Cox and Ferrell. We were also able to push in transition," Davis said.
Late in the third Hogsett pushed the HHS lead to 43-30 on a jump shot, as HHS ended the quarter with a 9-2 run, including a 3-pointer from Cumberland with 19 seconds left in the frame.

The Lions made things close in the final frame, starting the quarter with baskets from Ferrell, Adams and Cox.

Ames came back with an old-fashioned three-point play, but the Lions answered with six straight from Ferrell, Williams and Dakota Hargrave, cutting the HHS lead to six points.

HHS wrapped up the win with an 8-5 run.

"Overall, I was pleased with the kids' effort," Davis said. "We gave up a big lead in the fourth, and our kids showed a lot of character keeping their composure and being able to get good shots when we needed them. I'm just very pleased with how our kids handled themselves."

Carson spoke about his seniors following the game. Fairfield's seniors include: Ian Adams, Cameron Rolark, Cody Ferrell, Ryan Evans, Chris Cox, Brandon Carmean and Cody Tolle.

"I've been with them for six years," he said. "I coached them in junior high and enjoyed every minute of it. Oddly enough, we have another home game left, it's just not going to be senior night. They are a good group of kids and will be successful in whatever they do in life. Luckily, we have two more regular season games and hopefully a long, eventful tournament run. We still have a lot of time left."

In JV play, HHS defeated FHS, 57-39. The basket of the night came from Reese Leibreich when he banked in a shot over half the court with 2.6 seconds left in the third quarter. Ta Captain led HHS with 14 points. Blake Brown and Leibreich each had 12 points. Brad Clay led FHS with 16 points, the game-high.

In the freshman game, FHS won, 50-19. Leading FHS were Gage Montgomery with 16 points and Cody Bennett with 13 points. HHS was led by Alex Branscome with nine points.[[In-content Ad]]

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