COLUMBIA — The Fairfield Central boys’ (16-6, 6-1) basketball team won in convincing fashion at Columbia High 77-60 on Wednesday night.
The Griffins used a 20-point third quarter to take control of the game. With the win, Fairfield swept the season series with Columbia. The Griffins have scored at least 75 points in four of their last five games. Fairfield Central head coach Devin Liferidge was pleased with his team’s energy and offensive production.
“I told the kids early on that I wanted them to run hard and run fast,” he noted after the game. “The last few games we’ve been able to create easy baskets with our fast pace.”
Not only did the Griffins make good choices shooting the basketball, but they also made smart decisions when handling the basketball. Fairfield committed a low-total of seven turnovers, with only two coming in the first half. Liferidge believes the low turnover count is possibly a sign his team is beginning to value each offensive possession.
“That’s (turnovers) been our Achilles heel all reason,” he said. “Making that step in the right direction is huge and helpfully we can continue to do protect the ball.”
Columbia scored the first four points of the game, but Fairfield’s dynamic-duo of Keith Workman and Daniel Maple combined for 14 of the Griffins’ 16 first quarter points to knot the game up at 16-16 to end the first quarter.
With every possession counting, Fairfield began to dominate the boards, which increased their offensive possessions.
“We knew it was going to be a physical game,” Liferidge said after the game. “So we knew if we could rebound and take care of the ball early that would help us out.”
The game see-sawed in the second quarter with the two teams combining for 11 ties or lead changes. With the game tied at 29-29, a Javahnne Neal three-pointer and a Maple two-pointer would give the Griffins a 34-29 advantage at halftime.
Fairfield’s defensive pressure failed to force any Columbia turnovers early, so Liferidge decided to adjust the approach.
“I felt like we weren’t getting anything out of our press early so we backed out in the second quarter,” he noted. “But we still had the mindset to run the floor offensively, so I feel like that helped us.”
Fairfield’s defensive pressure would comeback in full force to start the second half. The Griffins exploded at the start of the third quarter, by going on a 16-0 scoring. Liferidge credits the opportunities coming from a snap decision to go back to the press.
“We tried it one time and got a turnover out of it so we went with it,” he stated after the game.
Fairfield’s pressure ended up forcing turnovers on four out of the next five possessions. In the middle of the 16-0 run, Shadarius Hopkins netted a three-pointer to force a Columbia timeout. The Capitals would never get closer than 13 points for the rest of the game.
Fairfield’s free throw shooting would keep the game out of reach for Columbia in the final minutes. As a team, the Griffins made 19 of their 26 free throws.
Workman led all scorers with 32 points and Maple chipped in 19. With just three games remaining, Liferidge wants his team to stay focused.
“We were really thinking about this game and trying to avoid a trap and I knew we wouldn’t overlook it, so I’m happy to get out of here with a win,” he said.
With the win, the table is set for a possible region-title deciding game against Keenan on Feb. 8. Before that, the Griffins will have to deal with Pelion (2-12, 0-5) tonight.
Fairfield defeated Pelion 79-45 on Jan. 21. The final three game of the regular season are at all at home for the Griffins. Tonight’s game will tip 10 minutes after the conclusion of the girls’ game, which starts at 6 p.m.