WINNSBORO — The boys’ basketball team at Fairfield Central (9-5, 1-0) opened up their region III-AA schedule on Friday (Jan. 10) and defeated the Capitals of Columbia (7-6, 0-1) by a score of 63-56.
Columbia’s Terry House started the scoring off with a three-pointer that fueled Columbia jumping out to a 4-2 lead. Trailing, the Griffins would respond with an 11-2 run and force a timeout from Columbia’s bench.
Leading 13-6 at the end of the first quarter, Fairfield Central would never fall behind in the game again.
Although his team was leading for the majority of the game, Fairfield Central head coach Devin Liferidge said after the game that he anticipated a back-and-forth game from a scrappy Columbia squad that shoots the ball well.
“I told my guys at halftime that we were going to have to step it up defensively and I thought we did, but we still have to play a clean ballgame down the stretch and start to execute better,” he noted.
Fairfield led 29-22 at half, but Columbia used a 9-2 run to start the third quarter to tie the game at 31-31. Terrell Blocker’s three-pointer knotted the game up momentarily until the Griffins countered with a 7-0 run to retake a lead from which they never looked back.
During the second half, the Griffin defense continued to apply pressure and were able to affect the pace of the game by forcing Columbia into several five-second, 10-second and back-court violations.
“We just wanted to give them different looks,” Liferidge said. “We went to a full-court zone press, man press and a half-court zone press. I thought it bought us some time and they (Columbia) made some poor decisions at times and hopefully it was our pressure that did that.”
Columbia committed a total of 19 turnovers during the contest.
Heading into the fourth quarter the Griffins held on to a six point advantage, but Liferidge anticipated the game still going down to the final minute because of Columbia’s ability to shoot the ball.
“Their (Columbia) three-point shooting is a different dynamic then what we’re used to and they shot it well tonight,” he said after the game.
Columbia made nine of their 17 shots from beyond the arc, but shot just 35-percent from the floor as a whole.
Halfway through the fourth quarter the Griffins took their largest lead (16 points) at 56-40, but despite the deficit, the Capitals’ three-point shooting got them back in the game.
With 18 seconds left, Darius Richardson would knock down a shot from downtown to cut Fairfield’s advantage to six points, however Fairfield was able to put the game on ice by making their free throws and earning a 63-56 victory to open up region III-AA play.
Griffin bench players Shadarius Hopkins, Byron Sampson and Daniel Maple combined to bring defensive pressure and offensive scoring off the bench. The trio combined for 32 points, with Maple netting a game high 17 points.
Liferidge said after the game that he likes how deep his team is and having 14 players on a roster is the most he has ever kept.
“Byron Sampson’s energy was really really good and I really felt like it changed the game and Shadarius (Hopkins) came in and was lights out and hit some big shots, that is what we expect from him (Hopkins),” Liferidge noted.
Fairfield Central used a balanced scoring approach in the win over Columbia with five players reaching double digits and eight of the 14 players scored at least a point.
“That’s (balance) what we’re about,” Liferidge stated. “The deeper we are the harder we are to defend. When you have guys coming off the bench scoring and putting pressure on the ball, it really makes us tough to guard.”
The Griffins will return to the hardwood tonight, when they play at Eau Claire (5-8, 1-0). Average 54.3 points per game and are coming off a 66-56 win at Pelion. Chris Dwyer led the Shamrocks in scoring with 13 points and LaMondre Corley also cracked double digits by adding 10.
Eau Claire and Fairfield Central share a common opponent in Chester, who has defeated Eau Claire twice this season by a combined total of 47 points. Fairfield and Chester split their two contests, with the Griffins winning 58-52 on Jan. 3 and losing 80-71 on Dec. 10.
The boys’ game will start following the conclusion of the girls’ game, which tips at 6 p.m.