NEWBERRY — The Fairfield Central basketball team got off to a rough start to their season, but the Griffins are starting to show good cause for coach Devin Liferidge’s continued optimism.
The Griffins picked up two region wins and now stand at 3-1 in the region, firmly in second place behind Keenan and ready to make their move.
Friday night, the Griffins traveled to face an Eau Claire (3-7) team that could be their mirror image. The Shamrocks have had similar struggles against strong opponents such as Blythewood, but have also been able to show their own strengths as well.
Friday night, Eau Claire again proved their ability and, with around 5:00 left in the game, they were up by 10 and looking to get the win.
The Griffins had other plans, however, and put together a titanic effort to tie the game with 30 seconds remaining when Marcus Gibbs knocked down a 3 pointer. When Eau Claire drove down the court and put up the potential winning shot, Chandon Davis went up and picked up his 6th block of the game, igniting the host of Griffins who had made the trip.
The Griffins would get the ball back with three seconds on the clock, and coach Devin Liferidge made his call, looking for a shot but content to take momentum into overtime. Chandon Davis and Aykel Richmond had other plans, though, and jumped at their opportunity.
Davis threw the inbound pass the length of the court and Richmond needed only three steps and an acrobatic layup over two Shamrock defenders as the buzzer sounded.
Liferidge said his team was capable of pulling out the win in a hostile environment.
“I was just waiting for us to get a shot,” he said. “We went through a funk there and I knew if we could hit a couple of those in a row, I just felt like that would give us a chance to swing it.”
Tuesday night, the Griffins were again on the road, this time against rival Newberry. The Bulldogs came out with plenty of bark, but couldn’t live up with their bite. The game started with free throws for Newberry after Chandon Davis was charged with a technical foul when a referee said Davis had dunked the ball in warm ups.
It wasn’t long, though, before the boys took the lead and they would not give it up.
Late in the game, it looked like the Griffins would pull away for a big win, but Newberry clawed back to within 10.
Liferidge said he was happy with the win, but thought his Griffins could do better than the 82-75 score.
“I’m not crazy about how we finished the game,” he said. “When you have a team on the ropes, you really have to put them away. We did enough to win, but it’s a region win so I’m not mad at them.”
Liferidge said he is happy with how his team has responded after the rough start.
“You’re looking at a team that lost seven out of their first 10 games, didn’t win their first road game until the second week of January, lost a key contributor in the first week of practice,” he said. “Everything that could have went wrong did early on, and being 3-1 in the region after being beat by 40 at Blythewood, it’s been a mess. But that doesn’t matter now, we’re 3-1 and have a chance to play for a region championship.”
The Griffins will have a quick turnaround for the week, playing Pelion at home Wednesday before traveling to Mid-Carolina on Friday. The big game will be Tuesday when the region’s first place team, Keenan, visits.
Reach James Inabinet at 803-635-4016.