HAMPTON, Va. — The Lady Griffins of Fairfield Central recently competed on the national scene in the Boo Williams Tournament in Virginia.
The tournament began the day after Christmas and was host to 56 teams, which were split into seven 8-team brackets. Fairfield Central competed in the top rated bracket named the Gold Division, which was home to the number two (Maury) and number eight (First Colonial) ranked teams in Virginia.
Despite taking three losses in tournament play, Fairfield Central head coach Cedrick Simpson thought the opportunity to play in a nationally recognized tournament provided his team with valuable experience.
“Boo Williams is a big-time basketball tournament and they only get the best so it was an honor to even be invited,” he noted. “We learned a lot and this is probably the best experience I’ve had in my 11 years of coaching.”
Fairfield’s first contest came against Virginia’s number two ranked team in the state, Maury. The Lady Griffs fell in the opening game by a score of 55-37. The loss sent the Griffins to the consolation game against Virginia’s eighth-ranked team, First Colonial, who beat Fairfield 56-37.
Fairfield Central was limited to just four points in the second quarter and trailed 29-14 at the half. First Colonial’s starting five accounted for 32 of their total 56 points, led by Ladeja James’ 12 points.
According to Simpson, both of Fairfield’s first two opponents had elite players that have signed scholarships to play NCAA division-I basketball. He said there were scouts in the stands from some of the top programs in the nation, citing universities like Old Dominion, North Carolina, Virgina Commonwealth, Virginia Tech and Duke.
“It was great for our girls to play against high-level talent,” Simpson said.
On the third day of the tournament, the Griffins faced Stonewall Jackson. Fairfield lost in their final contest 54-39. Each of Fairfield’s opponents was able to put on defensive pressure and shoot the ball successfully.
Although the Lady Griffins gave up an advantage in size, Simpson was pleased with his team’s overall effort.
“To get invited and to play at a high level was great exposure for our program,” he said. “Size was key in all of our games. Each of our opponents had a girl six-feet tall or taller and they were able to wear us down in the fourth quarter. We brought a lot of intensity every time we were on the floor. It was just that at the end of the game we didn’t have enough left in the tank to pull out a victory.”
Simpson said that when he took over the Fairfield Central program three years ago, it was his goal to put the Lady Griffins on the national level. A nationally recognized tournament like Boo Williams gave the Fairfield Central program exposure it has not received in recent past.
“In the last three years we’ve made a big time leap to get to this point,” Simpson stated. “It has been led by our hard work and is a real credit to the kids in our system. We can’t sit back and not play in tournaments. It is important to play over Christmas break because a lot of teams aren’t good enough to play over the break in tournaments. The main thing for us is getting our kids and our school exposure.”
Even in the face of defeat, Simpson said his team was still keeping their spirits up.
“They (Fairfield Central) learned a lot in those losses and it was something they needed,” he noted. “Everybody hates to lose but those games really opened our eyes.”
Coming off the three losses, Simpson said he wants his team to improve on finishing the game and playing hard the entire 32 minutes of regulation. He stated that his players learned many lessons during tournament play and are already looking forward to getting back on the floor and competing.
“We can’t dwell on the past, we have to focus on the future and keep pushing forward,” Simpson said.
Fairfield Central will resume regular season play on Jan. 3 when they play at Chester. The Lady Griffs defeated Chester earlier this season 54-16. Tip-off is scheduled for 6 p.m.