COLUMBIA — In a game that had nine lead changes, the Lady Griffins’ (13-4, 6-1) basketball team escaped Columbia High School (13-7, 6-2) with a 53-50 victory Wednesday night.
Fairfield used a 21-point fourth quarter to erase a 12-point deficit to win their sixth region game. After the game, Fairfield Central head coach Cedrick Simpson said he wouldn’t soon forget his Griffins’ comeback in the capital city.
“I’ve been around basketball a long time and that was one of the top three game I’ve been a part of as a coach,” he stated with emotion.
After trailing the entire second half, Chyna Moore miraculously sunk a three-pointer with 22 seconds remaining. It was her fifth three-pointer of the night.
Moore said she always sets her feet and then follows through when she shoots, but that wasn’t the case when her final shot went off Wednesday night. When she released the ball, she didn’t think it was going in.
“Oh no, that’s not how (perfectly ) I shot it , but the good thing is that it went in,” Moore said with a smile. “It shocked me because when I looked up it was off, but then it just banked in.”
Despite her not shooting it perfectly, Moore’s shot caromed in off the glass from beyond the arc to give the Lady Griffins the final basket they needed to march past the Capitals. After the game, Simpson was proud Moore found a way to put the ball in the basket.
“I’m always hard on her and telling her she can be a super-star,” he stated. “Tonight she stepped up and proved she can handle the pressure, which will hopefully be a preview of her leadership next year.”
Even after the three-point basket made the score 51-49 in favor of the Lady Griffs, the Capitals didn’t go away quietly. Columbia’s Alexis Foulks stepped to the free throw line with a chance to tie the game up in the final seconds. Her first free throw splashed the net, but the second rattled out. It was Foulks — a 97-percent free throw shooter — only miss of the game.
After the missed free throw, Foulks had a three-point attempt blocked in the final seconds, which forced the Capitals to foul Tanise Davis. Davis buried both free throws to put the game on ice and give the Lady Griffins a 53-50 win.
Because of the shot by Moore and the miss by Foulks, Simpson believes Fairfield’s win was powered by mythological forces.
“Its the Griffin myth,” he said. “I guess its just our time.”
The Lady Griffins were forced to scrap out a win without one of their top players, Jada Martin, on the floor. Martin fouled in the fourth quarter and Simpson was pleased with his team’s effort at the end of the game.
“They (Fairfield) showed a whole lot of heart and didn’t quit, ” he noted. “That (not quitting) is what we’ve taught since day one. We’re going to play basketball at high level and always give our best.”
When ranking the games she has played in, Moore put Wednesday’s win at the top of the list.
“It’s number one that I’ve played in,” she stated. “(It is) just because the crowd was so loud, we were down and the way we won at the end.”
Fairfield scored the first six points of the game, but a 6-0 run by Columbia tied the game at 6-6 at the end of the first quarter. The game teeter-tottered in the second quarter with each team’s momentum swinging back and forth like a pendulum, but ultimately Columbia would take a 21-18 lead at halftime.
Fairfield started the third quarter with four straight points to take a momentary lead, but halfway through the third quarter Columbia used a 9-0 run to fuel a 39-32 advantage heading into the final quarter.
Fairfield outscored Columbia 21-11 in the final eight minutes. As a team, the Lady Griffins hit four of their last five shots, with none being bigger than Moore’s game-winning three-pointer.
Moore finished with a team-high 17 points. Martin added 15, followed by nine from Raven Rivers and eight from Tia Pearson.
With the win Fairfield is in the driver’s seat for their first ever region championship, with three games remaining.
Fairfield is back on the floor tonight, when they host Pelion (6-11, 2-5). Fairfield defeated the Lady Panthers 45-31 back on Jan. 21. Tip-off at Fairfield Central High School is scheduled for 6 p.m.