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Lions fend off Indians with strong second half

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From left, Hillsboro's Steven Kibler, Fairfield's Trey House and Gabe Fouch and Hillsboro's Nic Burns battle for a rebound Tuesday at HHS. (HCP Photos/Stephen Forsha)
Stephen Forsha, The Highland County Press

HILLSBORO — Playing for the first time since their first loss after winning 39 straight games, the Fairfield Lions got back to basics in the second half Tuesday night and played their brand of basketball, defeating the host Hillsboro Indians, 53-40, and in the process winning their 17th game of the season. 

Fairfield was without their head coach Quentin Williams — who has to miss two consecutive games — so assistant coach Raymond Friend took over the head coaching duties in the non-conference showdown. The game also showed it was a small world as Friend was a former teammate with current Hillsboro head coach Josh Howland, as this was the first — and as Friend said, “only time” — that matchup will ever happen. 

“Coach Q has got them in good spots, and this was a team effort on the coaching staff,” Friend said. “I mean, everybody chipped in. We're thrilled to come out here, especially after we got our first loss last Friday. To bounce back and be able to come in here and get a road win is really good for us moving forward. Seeing how the kids responded, came out a little sluggish but then picked it up, and seeing them respond is going to help us down the road.”

As for the action on the court, the Indians led at halftime by six points against the Division IV No. 7 state-ranked Lions, by a 27-21 score, but it was Fairfield leading 12-10 after the first frame. 

Fairfield’s Trey House opened the game with a jumper, and the Indians answered with two free throws by Jack Howland and a put-back basket from Nic Burns with 4:14 left in the quarter for a 4-2 Indians lead. 

The Lions answered with a 3-pointer by Cade Miller, but two free throws by Howland left the Indians ahead 6-5. From there, the lead changed three more times in the first quarter for a total of seven times in the opening frame that left Fairfield ahead 12-10. 

Speaking of the lead changes, the second quarter saw eight more times — including tied scores — and it was the Indians tying the score at 12-12 to start the second with a put-back basket by Steven Kibler. Larkin Friend followed with a put-back basket for the Lions, and Tate Davis of Hillsboro sank two free throws with 6:55 left in the quarter for a 14-14 score.

HHS regained the lead with a basket in the paint by Burns, and again the score was tied (16-16) with two points from Janre Lerio with the assist by Friend. The Indians broke the tied score with a steal and layup from Kibler with 4:14 left in the quarter, but at the 4:00 mark, Fairfield’s Chase Newman made a free throw to make it a one-point deficit for the Lions at 18-17. 

The Indians increased their lead to three points with a layup by Kibler, only to see the Lions take the lead with buckets scored by Friend and Logan McIntosh with 2:01 left in the first half at 21-20. 

Hillsboro answered with seven consecutive points to end the second quarter, taking a six-point lead into halftime with two free throws made by Burns, a 3-pointer from Davis and two more free throws converted by Burns with 44.1 left in the second quarter for the 27-21 halftime lead. 

The Indians were held to six points in the third quarter, while the Lions broke out for 18 points, taking a 39-33 lead when the third frame came to a close. 

“The third quarter was definitely the difference,” Howland said. “Their shooting, but really our lack of scoring, in the third quarter hurt us a lot, we thought. We got sort of kind of stagnant on offense, standing around waiting on things to happen, versus making things happen. We thought Fairfield did a nice job with House coming in and making things happen, and McIntosh there in the second half, making things happen, taking it to the basket. They did a nice job of that. That's what we needed more of. We were driving some, penetrating, but we weren't moving back side.

“Leesburg’s depth definitely had played a role in tonight's game. There's no doubt about it. Even just their first five, they do a nice job of finding that guy who's hot. Actually, starting the game it was Cade Miller with eight points early. When you’ve got that many guys that can shoot, it helps you a lot.”

The Lions started the third quarter with a jumper by Miller and four points scored by House, who made two free throws and a layup, tying the score at 27 points each. 

HHS took the lead with a basket from Kibler, but the Lions scored five straight points with a 3-pointer by House, and a steal and layup on a fast break by Friend, for a 32-29 Lions advantage with 3:28 left in the third. 

The Indians answered with points scored by Brayden Hunter, but points from Friend kept the Lions in the lead by three points at 34-31. After another two points scored by Kibler, the Lions finished the third frame with five consecutive points with a 3-pointer and layup scored by House for the 39-33 Fairfield lead. 

‘We knew it was going to be a hostile atmosphere,” Friend said. “I mean, it's always a good game when you’ve got to play your in-county rivals. The first half we came out and we did not accomplish, and we came out a little timid on offense. We really pride ourselves on defense, and we really allowed them too many easy shots in the first half. We really got rid of that in the second half, and I was really proud of them. I challenged them at halftime and said, look, take your man out of the game. Those boys really did it. 

“It's all about getting stops. If you can get stops, it feeds the offensive end. When we're able to go out and get four, five, and stack those stops together, our transition can get rolling, our offense seems to start. Of course, you’ve got to hit a few shots, and we did that better in the second half that we did in the first half.”

Hillsboro scored seven points in the fourth quarter, while the Lions added 14 points for their 13-point win. 

The Lions in the fourth quarter had seven points from McIntosh, including a 3-pointer, while House scored five points and Gabe Fouch scored two points. 

HHS in the final frame had five points from Howland and two points scored by Davis from the free-throw line. 

In all for the Indians, they totaled 10 two-point baskets, two 3-pointers and they were a perfect 14-of-14 from the free-throw line, with Howland going 6-of-6, Burns was 4-of-4, and Davis was also 4-of-4 with his free-throw attempts. 

Fairfield for the game totaled 16 two-point baskets, five 3-pointers and were 6-of-8 from the free-throw line. 

FHS committed 17 turnovers, while the Indians committed eight turnovers. 

HHS was led in scoring by Howland with 11 points, followed by Kibler with 10 points. The rest of Hillsboro’s scoring came from Burns (8), Davis (7) and Hunter (4). 

Fairfield was led in scoring by House with 19 points as he finished with five two-point baskets, two 3-pointers and he went 3-of-3 with his free-throw opportunities. 

Miller totaled 10 points, and next was Friend with eight points. The rest of the final scoring for the Lions were Fouch (2), Lerio (2) and Newman (1). 

Fairfield’s win improves them to 17-1 overall this season, and Hillsboro moves to 8-9 overall. 

Next for the Indians is a FAC game on Saturday, Feb. 2 at home against the McClain Tigers at 5 p.m. 

Fairfield will play again on Friday, Feb. 2 at home against the Fayetteville Rockets at 7:30 p.m. 

FHS    12 09 18 14 — 53
HHS    10 17 06 07 — 40 

FAIRFIELD (53) — L.Friend 4 (0) 0-0 8, T.House 5 (2) 3-3 19, L.McIntosh 4 (1) 0-1 11, G.Fouch 1 (0) 0-0 2, J.Lerio 1 (0) 0-0 2, C.Miller 1 (2) 2-2 10, C.Newman 0 (0) 1-2 1. TOTALS: 16 (5) 6-8 53.

HILLSBORO (40) — T.Davis 0 (1) 4-4 7, B.Hunter 2 (0) 0-0 4, S.Kibler 5 (0) 0-0 10, N.Burns 2 (0) 4-4 8, J.Howland 1 (1) 6-6 11. TOTALS: 10 (2) 14-14 40.