1,000 for Fritz!Senior scores 20 in Fairfield’s 67-60 win over West Branch
There were 22 seconds left to play on Tuesday night in Fairfield’s home contest against the West Branch Bears.
Trojan senior Sam Fritz stood at the free-throw line. Fairfield led 65-58.
She looked at the bucket, let it fly, the ball fell through the net and, with that, Sam Fritz forever etched her name into Trojan basketball lore, becoming just the second player in 5-on-5 school history to ever score 1,000 career points.
“I knew I had the 1,000 points once I heard the crowd cheering so loud after the free throw,” Fritz said.
That point — that 1,000th career point — also was critical to another Trojan victory. Fairfield, ranked No. 14 in Iowa, ultimately defeated West Branch 67-60.
“That the point helped us win a game was icing on the cake,” Fritz said.
It’s been 24 years since a Trojan girls’ player has joined the 1,000 Point Club. Fairfield’s Amy Breen finished her career in 1993 with 1,391 points.
“Scoring 1,000 career points wasn’t on my mind the first few years I was playing,” said Fritz, a four-year varsity starter. “But as I was getting closer, I thought I could get it, and then I really wanted it.”
Postgame, Fritz was presented with the game ball by Trojan head coach Mick Flattery at midcourt.
“It was exciting to be honored like that,” Fritz said.
Her teammates were equally excited.
“Sam deserves all this praise 120 percent,” said Trojan senior Kylie Kurtz. “Sam and I have played together since fourth grade. I’ve seen that girl shooting that ball in the summer, after practice, before practice — she never stops working. It was great to see her reach 1,000 points.”
Senior teammate Mikaela Lunsford said, “It’s really emotional to me because Sam and I have been playing together since fifth grade. It’s heartwarming. It’s an honor that all of us got to celebrate this with her.”
Among those giving Fritz a postgame standing ovation were her parents. Julie (Litton) Fritz was a member of the 1983 Fairfield Trojan basketball state championship squad.
“It was awesome to watch her do this tonight,” said Julie. “She has worked so hard.”
Julie Litton graduated in 1983. Frank Fritz graduated from Fairfield in 1982.
“I’m so proud of Samantha for doing this,” Frank said. “She’s worked so hard at the game.”
And, naturally enough, on Tuesday night, Sam Fritz was again working very hard.
She scored 20 points, including four treys, grabbed six rebounds, dished two assists and, as she always does, played tough defense.
“This was a very good game for us,” Sam Fritz said. “Everyone did their part.”
Fritz scored six first-quarter points while junior teammate Nicole Buch torched West Branch for 11 points, including three treys, and Fairfield led 22-16 heading into the second frame.
With 1:15 left in the first half, Fairfield (11-4) was trailing 33-31. Buch was dribbling 25 feet from the bucket. Then the 5-foot-8 Lunsford set a pick that would have stopped a truck, let alone an opponent.
“Mikaela sets a lot of great picks for me,” said Buch, “but that is one I certainly remember.”
Buch drove her defender straight into the unmovable Lunsford — who of course never flinched — kept driving, got fouled near the bucket, hit her shot, canned the freebie, and Fairfield took a 34-33 lead.
“I was thinking, ‘I’ll set Nicole a really wide screen and Nicole’s girl will follow her and I’ll stop her cold,’ ” Lunsford said. “Most girls can’t run me over and Nicole is really good at using my screens.”
Buch had 19 points at the break and Fairfield led West Branch (10-7) 39-35.
Midway through the third quarter, Kurtz was assigned the task of guarding West Branch’s highly acclaimed junior guard Tatum Koenig.
“Coach told me, ‘Don’t let her touch the ball,’” said Kurtz. “Coach had me all over her. I did the best I could.”
And Kurtz’s best was sensational.
For the rest of the contest, while Kurtz was guarding the Bears’ superstar, Koenig only had one more field goal and two made free throws.
It was a terrific defensive performance by Kurtz.
“Once Coach told me I was supposed to guard her, I didn’t worry about my offense,” Kurtz said. “I knew my job was just to stop her.”
With 1:12 left to play, and Fairfield ahead 63-56, Koenig attempted a drive around Kurtz.
No way. Not in this house — Kurtz wasn’t budging. Kurtz forced Koenig into an off-balance shot and, just for good measure, Kurtz grabbed the rebound herself.
For the contest, Kurtz had four boards, six points and two steals.
All night, Buch was unstoppable. She scored 29 points, which included four treys. She was 13 of 16 from the free-throw line. She also had six rebounds, four assists and three steals.
“This was a question of which was the tougher team,” Buch said. “Who wanted it more?”
Lunsford finished with five rebounds, five assists, a steal, a block and 12 points.
Also for Fairfield, Kara Jeffrey had two boards, two assists, three steals and a block, Brook McLain had a steal and rebound and Brynna Bowman had a rebound.
This was a big win for Fairfield, clearly aiming for a long postseason run.
But, ultimately, this was a night to celebrate Sam Fritz.
“I wasn’t sure whether I’d get the 1,000th point tonight,” she said. “Now that it’s done, it feels great. It was also great that we beat a very good team tonight.
“But … we’re a very good team, too.”
To contact Allan Mandell, email him at email@example.com