WINNSBORO — The Fairfield Central girls’ (15-4, 8-1) basketball team earned their first ever region title Saturday night after notching a 52-42 win over The Lady Raiders of Keenan.
Not only is it Fairfield Central’s first region championship, but its the first for head coach Cedrick Simpson as well.
“I’m at a loss for words and its hard to explain (the feeling),” Simpson stated after the game.
Simpson is in his third season at Fairfield Central and his 11ths season overall. He expressed his excitement not only for himself, but for all those involved with the Lady Griffins’ basketball program.
“I’m super super excited about it,” Simpson noted. “But I’m more excited for the community, the parents, the administration and our girls.”
The Lady Griffins overcame some early turnovers and butterflies to secure their first region title. Fairfield committed seven turnovers in the first quarter, but senior Jada Martin said her teammates knew how much was riding on the game and their confidence never wavered.
“There was a little bit of nervousness early on, but I have faith in my team and I knew we would bring it out from the beginning,” she noted. “All of use came in focused so I wasn’t really that worried.”
Fairfield has now won four straight games and eight of their past nine.
The Lady Griffins never trailed in the game. Raven Rivers sunk the first points of the game when she made good on a shot from beyond the arc. At the end of the first quarter, Fairfield held a slight lead at 8-6.
Christian Thompson netted the first four points to start the second quarter for the Lady Griffs, which forced the Keenan bench to call a timeout. Fairfield began to find their rhythm halfway through the second quarter, when they shot 7-of-12 from the floor. They also hit 7-of-10 at the foul-line, while Keenan missed all four of their free throw attempts.
Martin believes her team’s success was all about communication.
“As the game went on we were able to talk, communicate better and get on track,” she noted. “We just finally got into the flow of the game.”
Fueled by two three-pointers by Rivers and Chyna Morre, the Lady Griffins ended the first half on a 8-0 run to take a 29-17 lead at halftime.
Simpson noted that the last four minutes of the first half and the first four minutes of the second half are usually the most important in a basketball game.
“We know when its time to buckle down not turn the ball over,” he added. “We also understand when its time to give the ball to our leaders, its all about experience.”
Despite trailing by 12, the Lady Raiders didn’t go away quietly. Keenan’s DeMyra Rudder poured in five quick points to pull her squad within seven, but that was as close as Keenan would get.
Anytime Keenan would get within striking distance, the Lady Griffs would stall any rally attempt with a run of their own. Simpson knew earning a victory wouldn’t be easy, but was proud of the way his team kept it’s composure.
“Keenan is always going to play hard and they’re one of our rivals,” he noted. “Keenan doesn’t want to lose and we don’t want to lose either. They’re always going to bring their A-game and they did again tonight.”
Halfway through the third quarter, Martin and Moore combined for six straight points to force a Keenan timeout. At the end of the third quarter, Fairfield had established a 44-29 lead.
Keenan did outscore Fairfield 13-8 in the final frame, but missed nine of their last 10 shots. The Lady Griffs were able to play keep-away the last three minutes of regulation, by pulling down offensive rebounds and protecting the ball.
Martin’s 15 points fueled the Lady Griffin’s scoring, followed by 10 from both Moore and Tanise Davis.
Fairfield’s first region title came against the team — Keenan — that stood in their way last season, which for Martin, makes the celebration a little bit sweeter.
“Its a great feeling,” she said after the game. “I’ve been speechless ever since we walked into the locker room.”