FAIRFIELD COUNTY — The Fairfield Central varsity basketball team hosted rival Chester last week in a rematch of the Cyclones earlier victory.
The Griffins (2-5), looking to bounce back from a difficult start to the season, started strong and looked ready to take the next step as a team.
Chester, however, had other plans and was able to scrap back into the game. Down the stretch, missed free throws were key as the Cyclones got their second wind.
In the end, though, it was a great defensive effort from Chandon Davis that would put the Griffins over the top. With just a few seconds left, Davis got a steal and would be fouled on his way to the basket.
That would seal the 57-54 win for Fairfield Central.
After the game, Coach Devin Liferidge was emotionally drained, but relieved to get the win.
“I thought we made that a whole lot more interesting than we should have,” he said. “We just wrote the script on how to not execute to end the game. Everything from missed free throws to lack of execution.”
Still, having picked up the win, Liferidge had praise for his Griffins.
“Sometimes you got to give yourself a cushion, so you can have some of those silly mistakes and it will be OK,” he said.
It was apparent late, though, that this team still has plenty of room for growth. Several times, after pushing out to big leads, the Griffins would let off the gas and give Chester the opportunity to close the gap.
That, Liferidge said, is part of a team’s development.
“When you get a team on the ropes, you got to finish them,” he said. “We’ve got to grow from that. It’s a process, and it’s just something you have to learn how to do as far as winning and finishing.”
With the win, the Griffins headed to Lexington on Monday night a confident group. These teams have become familiar with each other over the last several years.
Lexington’s coach, Bailey Harris, has been a big supporter of Fairfield Central since Liferidge, a former Wildcat standout, became the Griffins coach. All that support, however, meant nothing while they were facing off.
Lexington used a strong defensive effort to jump on top early, building a 13-7 lead to finish the opening quarter. The Griffins weren’t going away though, and would tie the game at 22-22 by halftime.
With strong performances from Brandon Adams and Akyel Richmond, the Griffins fought and scrapped through the third quarter.
When Richmond fouled out, “Taz” Armstrong came off the bench to provide quality play. In the end though, the Wildcats were just too much and pulled out a 64-56 win.
Liferidge said despite the loss, the match-up with Lexington provides an excellent learning opportunity each year.
“(Lexington) will always play a very disciplined style of basketball, so for us that’s a challenge,” he said. “I think we need it, it’s a really good assessment each year of where we are. It tells me a lot about our team every year.”
Another perk is the ability to share notes with Harris, a veteran of 563 wins as Lexington’s basketball coach.
“We always talk. He talked about how much he liked our pressure, some things we did well. He’ll call me tomorrow and tell me some thing we didn’t do well, and I’ll do the same with him,” Liferidge said.
Bailey Harris spoke after the game about the respect he has for Liferidge.
“Devin has always been one of the classiest guys I know,” Harris said. “I pull for him every game but this one.”
The feeling is mutual between the coaches, who have known each other since Liferidge was in elementary school.
“I remember being 8 years old and him picking us up, me and my brothers, for basketball camp. He’s always looked out for us,” Liferidge said.
Reach James Inabinet at 803-635-4016.