COLUMBIA — Fairfield Central (11-5, 2-0) erased an early deficit Tuesday night to earn a tough 43-34 win on the road at Eau Claire.
It was the Griffins second consecutive win in region play, and sixth straight win overall. Fairfield went on scoring run in the third quarter and used late free throws from Keith Workman to defeat the Shamrocks.
Eau Claire jumped out to a 7-3 lead halfway through the first quarter, and had Fairfield down by as many as six at 13-7 early in the second quarter. Griffin head coach Devin Liferidge anticipated a competitive game from the Shamrocks.
“We were counting on scrappy and physical game,” he said. “We knew we were going to have our hands full and be in for a dog fight. Its a region win on the road and we’ll take it.”
Once Fairfield took the lead just before the half, they never looked back. Even near the end of the game, Eau Claire would begin to threaten, but six fourth quarter free throws by Workman put the game on ice.
“Give Eau Claire credit because they played well, but we made enough plays down the stretch,” Liferidge noted. “Even though we were down I liked the way we were playing and eventually we made enough plays to win.”
Fairfield’s Nick Rikard knocked down his only basket of the game just before halftime to give the Griffins a 17-15 advantage.
In the third quarter, Fairfield outscored Eau Claire 13-7. Daniel Maple put the exclamation point on at the end of the third quarter by draining a three-pointer from the top of the arc, to put the Griffins up 30-22. Maple finished with 12 points.
Eau Claire stayed close in the final quarter, but Workman was perfect on all six of his free throw attempts in the final minutes to secure the Griffins victory.
“He (Workman) is a great free throw shooter and I trust him,” Liferidge stated. “His mere presence on the floor creates shots for other guys and he truly just wants to win.”
Despite making just two of his 16 shots from the floor, Workman finished with a team high 13 points.
Last year, the Griffins narrowly escaped defeated on the road against the Shamrocks by winning 59-55. All things considered, Liferidge said he likes the way his team is playing on the road and late in ball games.
“I really felt like we didn’t rush any shots as far as the way we closed it out and understanding shot selection I thought it was perfect,” he noted. “I really feel like this year we’re playing better on the road and we’re not losing very many on the road. We’ve been playing pretty well and we’ve got an older group so that helps. I don’t they’re overwhelmed when they come into another team’s gym and I think they’re ready for the challenge.”
Fairfield will put their undefeated region record on the line tonight when they play at Keenan (10-4, 2-0). Keenan is coming off a 74-61 win at Columbia, and has won six games in a row with their last loss coming before Christmas.
In the win over Columbia, Keenan had four players score in double digits. Keenan is averaging 66 points per game and shooting 48-percent from the floor. Overall, Liferidge said Keenan is a well coached and dangerous team.
“They’re very discipline and guard oriented,” he noted. “They like to drive, kick and shoot. If we can keep them out of the paint I think that will give us a shot to win.”
Keenan is led by University of South Carolina commit, Marcus Stroman.
“He is one of the best I’ve seen at the high school level since I’ve been coaching,” Liferidge stated. “He really can run a show and does not beat himself and is smart with the basketball.”
Stroman averages 14 points per game to go along with seven assists per outing.
Keenan defeated Fairfield Central twice last season by an average of 13 points per contest, but this year is a clean slate and its an early showdown between two of the best in region III-AA.
The game will begin after the conclusion of the girls game, which tips at 6 p.m.