Fairfield’s inspired effort falls short
The Trojans played like they could keep up with anybody Friday night — even the defending Class 3A champs.
In their closest game vs. Mount Pleasant in three seasons under Tyler Miklo, the Fairfield boys barreled out to an 11-8 first quarter lead before ultimately falling to their ninth-ranked rivals 51-42 in Southeast Conference hoops.
Spencer Peterman scored 12 points and Landon Gamrath added 10 points on 5 of 6 shooting to pace the Trojans (2-8, 1-3 SEC), who never trailed by more than 10 in the contest. Led by 14 points from Ryan Hanna and 12 from Faith Pope, Mount Pleasant (8-3, 5-0 SEC) stretched its SEC win streak to 45 games.
For Fairfield, the game was a complete 180 from its previous matchup with the Panthers, which they lost 62-24 in Mount Pleasant Nov. 30. Even so, Miklo emphasized the Trojans shouldn’t be satisfied with the moral victory.
“That’s a game we felt we should’ve won, and we let it get away because we turned the ball over too much,” said Miklo. “We’ve been telling them since day one this team is good enough to play with anyone in the state. They showed some of that tonight.”
The Trojans turned the ball over 21 times, but they still did a better job holding onto the ball in their second matchup. Overall, Mount Pleasant stole the ball 11 times Friday compared to 21 times in their first meeting. The key this time around, said Miklo, was his players weren’t afraid.
“We still turned it over way too much, but the guys were stronger with the ball. We didn’t play scared, and I thought we played scared the first time around. We need to come out and believe we can play with anybody.”
The Trojans believed on Friday.
Peterman scored Fairfield’s first four points for an early 4-2 advantage, then the home team stayed on top with back-to-back baskets by senior Darrin Dimmitt and Gamrath. A driving layup by Kyle Weirup in the quarter’s final minute gave the Trojans an 11-8 lead headed into the second period.
“The kids decided they were going to come out and attack, and they did it,” said Miklo. “I’ve really thought three out of the last four games we’ve come out very well from the start, and that helps a lot with our confidence.”
Paul Rundquist, Mount Pleasant’s head coach, thought his Panthers were ‘pressing.’
“I think we’re making some decisions that are a little bit out of character,” said Rundquist. “We’re in bad position, and maybe some of the pressure that we’re trying to put on defensively is affecting us offensively. We’re just going too fast, and we need to slow down and run our offense.”
In the second quarter, however, Mount Pleasant took the lead and ran with it. Cameron Frank scored the first basket in the period, followed by eight straight points from Hanna, who racked up 10 of his 14 points in the period. The Panthers had their largest lead of the night at 22-12, but Fairfield closed the gap with six of the half’s final eight points, including two buckets from Gamrath.
“We didn’t let them get away from us, and that was the biggest thing,” said Miklo. “We hung at the 5-7 point range, and that’s a testament to our guys’ hustle. I was happy with our effort in the quarter.”
Fairfield remained close the entire third quarter coming out of the locker room down 24-18. Both teams traded blows until two straight layups by Frank made the score 39-30, though a hook shot by Gamrath in the quarter’s final minute kept Fairfield within seven.
The two teams again played toe-to-toe in the final period, but the away team stayed in the drivers’ seat. Baskets by Dimmitt and Gamrath whittled the deficit to 45-40 with 3:00 remaining, yet the Panthers finished the game on a 6-2 run. Mount Pleasant’s Brant Shelman hit two free throws, and Logan Mulford and Pope both made shots in the game’s final minute.
Other leading scorers for Fairfield were Dimmitt, who scored seven, and junior Joe Hietpas, who hit two 3s to finish with six points. Hietpas also supplied three assists and had the Trojans’ only block. Freshman Jordan Reid contributed three assists, while Weirup scored three and nabbed a pair of steals. Vince Horras ended up with a team-high 10 rebounds, and Peterman pulled down nine boards.
Fairfield will be right back in action today vs. Mid-Prairie.
Fairfield vs. Mount Pleasant
MT. PLEASANT— 8 16 15 12 — 51
FAIRFIELD — 11 7 14 10 — 42
FAIRFIELD — Peterman 6 0-0 12, Gamrath 5 0-0 10, Dimmitt 3 1-2 7, Hietpas 2 0-2 6, Weirup 1 1-1 3, Horras 1 0-0 2, Carr 0 2-3 2, Reid 0 0-0 0, Whitney 0 0-0 0, Totals 18 4-8 42
3-point goals — Hietpas 2. Rebounds — Horras 10, Peterman 9, Gamrath 7, Hietpas 6, Dimmitt 3. Assists — Hietpas 3, Reid 3. Steals — Weirup 2, Hietpas 2. Blocks — Hietpas 1.
MT. PLEASANT — Hanna 6 2-3 14, Pope 6 0-0 12, Frank 5 0-3 10, Shelman 2 2-4 6, Mulford 2 0-0 5, Magnani 1 0-0 2, Conrad 1 0-0 2, Shull 0 0-0 0, Totals 23 4-10 51
3-point goal — Mulford 1. Rebounds — Frank 8, Pope 6, Hanna 4, Shelman 3. Assists — Frank 6, Hanna 3, Mulford 2. Steals — Shelman 4, Pope 4, Mulford 2. Blocks — Pope 3, Hanna 1, Frank 1, Mulford 1.