WINNSBORO — The Fairfield Central Lady Griffins picked up a big win Friday night against Keenan to move them into a three-way tie for first place in 2A Region III.
That meant a three game playoff to determine the region championship Saturday at Mid-Carolina, where they would play Newberry with the winner getting a shot at Keenan.
When first place Keenan came into the Griffin Den, they were 11-1 and looking to finish up a region title. The Lady Raiders, however, were never really close as Fairfield Central jumped to a 10-2 lead and finished the opening half up 27-17.
The second half saw Keenan push to close the gap in the third quarter, but the best they could do was keep up, and the Lady Griffins would pull away in the game’s final minutes. When the dust had settled, Fairfield Central found themselves in a three-way tie for first place in the region following a 59-46 thumping of Keenan.
Coach Amelia Miller said she knew her team was capable and it was just a matter of the players buying in.
“They believed they could beat Keenan, and they played a tremendous game,” she said. “Everybody was focused, they played extremely hard. This is a resilient group of girls and they felt like they had something to prove.”
Especially exciting was the contributions from her underclassmen.
“Jameka Henderson played a great game, she stepped up,” Miller said. “Our post players, Cristin Gray and Tamisha Woodard, they were excellent underneath.”
Miller said the future is definitely bright for Fairfield Central.
“I’m excited about the future. They’re getting better and better. They’re listening, they’re really buying into what we do, and it’s strong because the younger girls are looking up to the seniors and to see that makes me really proud,” she said.
With the win Friday night, the region was thrown into disarray with three teams tied for first place. The result was a three way playoff that saw Keenan waiting for an evening game where they would play the winner of a noon match-up between Newberry and Fairfield Central.
The Lady Griffins came into the game physically and emotionally drained from the big win the night before and got off to a slow start they could not recover from. After a close opening quarter, the Lady Griffins found themselves down by 11 at the half and struggling to make any shots.
The second half saw an improvement as Fairfield Central closed in on the Lady Bulldogs, but Newberry’s defense was too much late in the fourth quarter.
The Lady Griffins would end the regular season in third place in their region after a disappointing 49-42 loss.
While much of the talk after the game focused on the neutral site (Mid -Carolina) and the officials, who had several questionable calls, Coach Miller said that none of that mattered at the end of the day.
“We try not to look at it in a negative way, but we wish that we had a say in it,” Miller said. “I told the girls to just go out there and fight and compete. We were still in the game, I think we still should have beat them.”
Miller said that the fatigue from the whole ordeal was apparent, especially toward the end of the game.
“I knew that the girls that I play a lot, it was wearing down on them toward the end of the game and you saw it. No doubt about it, Friday night had a lot to do with it,” she said. “It’s not easy at all, but we had a chance.”
Despite the difficult weekend, the Lady Griffins rebounded with style Tuesday night when they went to Indian Land for the first round of the playoffs. The Griffins were led by Tanise Davis, who had 27 points, to a 60-38 shellacking of the Warriors.
Coach Miller credited her seniors with ensuring the victory.
“The girls came out and played extremely hard,” she said. “They left everything out there on the floor. Our senior guards stepped up tremendously. Tanise Davis had 27 points and Chyna Moore had 12.”
Another key, Miller said, was the continued improvement of eighth-grader Cristin Gray.
“I was also proud of Cristin Gray. She added seven points for us, she rebounded the ball well, made big shots for us, and was a big presence on defense,” Miller said.
The Lady Griffins will be on the road again for the second round of the playoffs Friday night as they visit Pendleton. Tip off will be at 7 p.m.
Reach James Inabinet at (803) 635-4016.