WINNSBORO — The Fairfield Central Griffins’ (4-3) basketball team will try to rebound at home tonight against Lexington (5-3) after a 78-71 loss to Newberry (5-0) on Saturday night.
A win tonight would be Fairfield’s first home-win of the season and also be the first win for Griffin head coach Devin Liferidge over his former coach.
Liferidge graduated from Lexington High School in 1999 and played varsity basketball for Bailey Harris. Liferidge said Harris has been not only a coach, but a mentor and friend as well.
“Bailey (Harris) is a super guy on and off the floor,” Liferidge emphasized. “He taught me how to coach and teach the game of basketball.”
Liferidge still keeps in touch with his old coach by calling or texting three to four times per week and always after every game.
“It is always a little weird to say the least when you’re going head to head with someone you care about,” Liferidge noted.
This is the third time the two coaches have played in the regular season. Harris beat Liferidge the first two times.
“In games past they (Lexington) have outsmarted us and shot the ball better than us,” Liferidge stated. “They’re so smart and so fundamentally sound that we cannot make a mistake because they will take advantage of it.”
Lexington averages 56 points per game and gives up an average of 53 points per game. Liferidge noted that Fairfield Central should expect a very disciplined Lexington team on the floor that will not beat itself.
“They are a very storied program and one of the better teams across the board traditionally,” he said.
On offense, Lexington will run the screen-and-roll and get back on defense to take charges. Liferidge said his biggest challenge will be to make sure his players are mentally ready. He hopes his team can play fast, spread the ball around the floor and use spacing to create matchup problems.
“As we’re driving to the basket, we have to be under control and make sure we’re playing a game that is disciplined,” Liferidge emphasized.
Lexington has won two straight games, but before that had dropped three straight.
Fairfield Central is coming off a 78-71 loss to top-ranked Newberry on Saturday night. Despite the loss, Liferidge said he found out a lot about his team’s character during the loss.
“I told my guys to embrace the chance to be tested,” he said. “Our kids had every opportunity to put their heads between their legs and make excuses but they still fought and fought and fought and I’m proud of them for that.”
Fairfield fell behind early when Newberry exploded for three dunks in the first two minutes. Although the Griffins had only three practices together and were still getting into basketball shape coming off the football season, Liferidge’s players never backed down. Even in the wake of committing 27 turnovers, the Griffins only trailed by one point with four minutes left in regulation.
Keith Workman made one of two free-throws to pull the Griffins to within 61-62, but that was as close as they would get before Newberry pulled away for good.
“When you’re playing the number one team in the state you just want the chance to still be in the game at the end,” Liferidge said. “I really like the mental state and the build of our team right now. We have to shore up some things on both ends of the floor, but I really feel like we have a chance to do something special this year.”
In those last four minutes, Fairfield committed costly turnovers and gave up critical offensive rebounds.
“We did not take care of the ball at all,” Liferidge noted. “They (Newberry) just out-executed us down the stretch.”
Keith Workman led all Griffin scorers with 24 points. Dequan Weldon and Brandon Adams hit double digits as well with 16 and 13, respectively.
Tip-off at Fairfield Central High School will happen 10 minutes after the conclusion of the girls’ game. Liferidge said the game would begin roughly around 7:30 p.m.