Fairfield rolls into regional final, beating Oskaloosa 54-49
OSKALOOSA — As if Wednesday night wasn’t exciting enough for the Fairfield girls’ basketball team, Saturday proved to be an encore of epic proportions.
The Trojans pulled out a second straight postseason upset in dramatic fashion, holding off a late rally from 10th-ranked Oskaloosa to claim a 54-49 victory in the Class 4A Region 5 semifinals in Oskaloosa.
The Trojans (11-12) advance to play No. 3-ranked Benton (20-2), which beat Grinnell 59-31 Saturday, in the regional championship game scheduled Tuesday in Marengo. The winner of Tuesday’s game advances to the state tournament scheduled Feb. 25 to March 2.
“I’ve got an old saying from Coach Lee, my coach. Like I told them after the game, ‘Hamburger is going to taste like steak tonight.’ Because that was so sweet, so sweet,” Fairfield head coach Mick Flattery said following the game.
The five-point win was the latest chapter in the unfolding Cinderella story for the Trojan program, which hadn’t won a postseason game in six years prior to its latest two road upsets. Much like Wednesday’s victory over Mount Pleasant, Saturday’s semifinal was crammed full of excitement and went down to the wire. Once again, the Trojans prevailed with clutch shots in the game’s final minute.
Trailing 49-48 with 55 seconds remaining, Fairfield’s Hanna Greiner hit a mid-range jumper and Brittany Kurtz followed with a free throw to put the Trojans up by two. Oskaloosa all-state guard Kena Veldhuizen missed a 3-point attempt and fouled out on the other end with 30 seconds remaining, and Miranda Metcalf hit one more free throw to make it a 3-point game. A last second heave by Oskaloosa skipped out of bounds, and Fairfield senior Sidney Baumann shut the door on Oskaloosa with a 2-for-2 trip at the foul line.
“At the end it was a nail-biter, but we pulled through,” said Baumann, who had another memorable late-season performance with a game-high 27 points on 9 of 21 shooting and four 3s.
Although Oskaloosa (18-5) had won the teams’ regular season matchup 44-26, Fairfield showed just how much it has improved over the last month. The Trojans led 14-13 after the first quarter and scored another 16 points in the second to eclipse their previous point total vs. Oskaloosa in the first half.
“I feel like we’re a hot team definitely. People haven’t seen the team that we’re showing them right now,” Baumann said. “I just think we get everyone involved more ... and we’re definitely meshing and definitely at the right time.”
Baumann, who scored 16 in the first half, kicked off the second quarter hitting two wide open 3s, and Metcalf scored a basket in between to hand Fairfield a 22-13 advantage. A putback by Kurtz midway through the period gave Fairfield its largest lead of the night at 28-15, and the Trojans held on for a 30-21 lead at halftime.
“We had high-percentage shots and were able to get the ball in the right peoples’ hands in the first half,” said Flattery. “We had other girls step up and make shots, and it was more than just Sidney Baumann tonight.”
Oskaloosa made a run at the Trojans out of the locker room, however, using a 6-0 outburst to cut Fairfield’s lead to three points. The Trojans got going with a putback by Marisa Repp, and Fairfield upped its lead to 38-27 on a pair of baskets by Baumann and a make by McKenna Ledger. Oskaloosa closed the third on a 7-0 run to enter the fourth quarter down 38-24.
Fairfield maintained its advantage to 42-38 with 5:15 remaining, but Veldhuizen scored seven consecutive points to hand Oskaloosa the 45-42 lead — the host team’s first since it led 13-12 in the first quarter. The two teams kept it close in the remaining minutes before Fairfield took over in the final 60 seconds.
“I’m so proud of how they all stuck together. We knew Oskaloosa was going to make a run at us, and our girls were able to step up and make plays,” Flattery said. “Playing them before, we had three or four minutes where we didn’t score and turned the ball over. This time we were able to answer them when they came back, so that’s the big difference.”
The Trojans received major contributions from several starters and bench players, alike.
In addition to Baumann’s 27 points and seven rebounds, Greiner tallied nine points and came down with 10 boards. Kurtz scored seven, and Repp finished with four points and five rebounds. Metcalf had three points and four rebounds, while Ledger hauled in four boards, as well.
The Trojans weathered a lackluster free throw shooting day to advance. They made 8 of 22 attempts but ultimately hit the ones that counted. They also held Oskaloosa to 16 of 49 shooting and won the battle of the boards 39-33.
“A terrific win and great fan support again. Our fans believe in our girls, and our girls are having fun. They know they’re not supposed to be here. They’re supposed to be home and the balls racked up and everything, but our girls just won’t let it happen,” Flattery said.
Fairfield, which entered the postseason with a 9-12 record, has won its last four games and continues to show all bets are off when it steps on the court.
“All you can ever ask at the start of the year is for the ladies to put themselves 32 minutes away from going to Wells Fargo,” Flattery added. “Hey, let’s roll the dice and see how it works on Tuesday night.”
Tip-off for the regional final is set for 7 p.m. at Iowa Valley High School in Marengo.
Class 4A Region 5 Semifinal
Fairfield @ Oskaloosa
FAIRFIELD — 14 16 8 16 — 54
OSKALOOSA — 13 8 13 15 — 49
FAIRFIELD — Baumann 9 5-11 27, Greiner 4 1-4 9, Kurtz 3 1-2 7, Repp 2 0-1 4, Metcalf 1 1-4 3, Ledger 1 0-0 2, Burnett 1 0-0 2, Totals 21 8-22 54.
3-point goals — Baumann 4. Rebounds — Greiner 10, Baumann 7, Repp 5, Ledger 4, Metcalf 4. Assists — Baumann 3, Repp 3, Burnett 2, Kurtz 2. Steals — Baumann 2, Repp 2. Blocks — Greiner 1.