COLUMBIA — The Fairfield Central girls basketball team did something Friday they failed to do all last season: beat Keenan.
The Lady Griffins (9-3, 2-1) downed the Lady Raiders 44-38 on the road Friday night. Granted Keenan’s team didn’t lose very many games last year, and won the state championship. Fairfield Central head coach Cedrick Simpson did not downplay the significance of the victory after the game.
“This was a big win for us. It was more than just playing a basketball game, we were playing Keenan,” he said.
Fairfield’s critical win on the road came after losing to Keenan (6-7, 1-1) twice last year and watching the Lady Raiders claim the region III-AA crown. Lady Griffin starting point guard Jada Martin knew how important the date with Keenan was.
“I feel real good about this win,” she said after the game. “We knew what was at stake and we know by beating Keenan we are one step closer to winning the region.”
Martin made a key play late in the game when she missed a free throw, but was able to track down the rebound and keep possession to allow more time to tick off the clock. After the game, she said the fan noise in a hostile gym did not affect her game.
“It goes in one ear and out the other,” Martin stated.
The game teeter tottered through the first eight minutes, but a Tanise Davis jumper at the buzzer put the Lady Griffs ahead 11-10 att the end of the first quarter.
Fairfield put Keenan in the bonus at the beginning of the second quarter and with four minutes left to play before halftime, they put Keenan in the double-bonus. However, the Lady Raiders struggle to capitalize off those opportunities and only made nine of their 21 free throws.
“We cannot continue to allow teams to go to the free throw line,” Simpson said after the contest. “If they (Keenan) had made their free throws the game would have been a lot closer.”
Despite missing most of their free throws, Keenan kept the game close in the second quarter as well. After back to back buckets by Chyna Moore following two consecutive steals, Fairfield took its largest lead of the first half at 21-16.
The Lady Raiders responded with two straight buckets of their own to cut the lead to one, but Davis would strike again at the buzzer by draining a three-pointer to give Fairfield a 24-20 lead at halftime.
The Lady Griffins came out in the second half and scored three straight buckets to stretch their advantage to 10 points, which forced a Keenan timeout. Fairfield never trailed in the second half, and the closest Keenan would get was four points.
In the second half, the Lady Griffins defense switch its approach every possession by either going with the press or a zone. Simpson mixed up his defensive calls and did not bring a full press the entire game.
“I wanted to to keep the players fresh so we threw a couple different things at them (Keenan),” he said. “It just depended on the flow of the game as to how we kept switching.”
Fairfield’s defense came away with 11 total steals, and Keenan committed eight turnovers. As a team, Fairfield made 38 percent of its shots and was 10 of 17 at the charity stripe.
Martin led all scorers with 16 points to go along with a team high eight rebounds. Davis chipped in 12 as well.
Tonight, the Lady Griffins continue their conquest of the road when they play at Pelion (5-8, 1-2). Pelion is coming off a 57-10 loss to Columbia, but Simpson noted the importance of winning at Pelion.
“We can’t take those scores and hope they (Pelion) play the same way against us,” he said. “This is a team that we have to take serious. If we could reach 3-0 on this road trip, that would be great for us. We are hoping wins like that will keep us in the mix with the top teams in the state.”
Martin is three points away from reaching the 1,000-point milestone in her Fairfield Central career and she was also recently nominated for the McDonald’s All-American team and named as WLTX’s “Player of the Week.”
Martin has 4.7 GPA and is number two in her class.
“Jada is an excellent student and she deserves this award,” Simpson noted.
Tip-off at Pelion is scheduled for 6 p.m.