Slow start to second half hurts Fairfield
Fairfield played even with No. 11 (Class 2A) West Branch in every quarter but one Monday, though it turned out to be a big one.
The visiting Bears (7-1) outscored Fairfield 20-5 in the third quarter, transforming a four-point halftime lead into a double-digit one. The Trojans closed the gap to 11 points in the fourth period, but West Branch held on to claim a 52-37 win in non-conference action in Fairfield.
The Trojans scored 20 points to West Branch’s 24 in the first half. After the fruitless third quarter, Fairfield held West Branch to eight points in the final eight minutes.
“Our guys have struggled all year to be consistent, and that kind of showed up in the third quarter,” said third-year head coach Tyler Miklo. “When we let them build that lead, as sound as West Branch is defensively, it’s a lot for us to try to make up.”
Fairfield did net the first seven points to open the fourth quarter, trailing 44-25. Junior Vince Horras was responsible for the Trojans’ first five points on back-to-back possessions, and freshman Jordan Reid pulled Fairfield within 44-32 on his own make.
But an ensuing five-minute scoreless drought would nullify the gains made at the start of the period, as Fairfield didn’t score again until the two-minute mark. With one minute to go, junior Joe Hietpas hit a 3 to bring Fairfield within 48-37, yet West Branch closed out the game scoring the final four points.
“I thought when we were deliberate with the ball, we found ways to get in there, and to our guys credit, at times they were willing to take it at them,” said Miklo. “In the second half, we just got a little hurried, got impatient, and those are things we have to work on.”
In the first quarter, senior Spencer Peterman handed the Trojans a quick 2-0 lead, and he later tied the game at 6-all with 1:50 remaining in the quarter. West Branch scored the period’s final four points to go up 10-6.
Horras cut the Bears’ lead to two at the start of the second, but West Branch reeled off eight of the next nine points to take an 18-9 lead. The Trojans hit four straight free throws — two apiece from Peterman and Darrin Dimmitt — to whittle the deficit to five. A 3-pointer by Dimmitt at the end of the half closed the gap to 24-20.
The Trojans struggled to contain West Branch 6-foot-8 senior Rylan Murry in the third quarter. Murry scored 11 of his 20 points in the eight-minute stretch to up his team’s lead to 41-22.
“They let Murry bring the ball up [in the second half], and we just didn’t do a good job moving our feet,” said Miklo. “I thought we did as good a job on Murry as we could at times, but they took advantage when we didn’t.”
West Branch also capitalized on several second-chance opportunities in the key third quarter stretch. The Bears out-rebounded Fairfield 35-25 in the game.
“When we’re playing off guys, and they’re getting open shots and not hitting them, we have to come up with the rebounds, and way too often we weren’t,” Miklo said.
Horras paced the Trojans on offense with 11 points, and Peterman scored eight points — all in the first half — to go with eight boards. Dimmitt scored six, Reid supplied two assists and Hietpas had two steals.
The Trojans (1-5, 1-1 SEC) wrap up 2012 with a return to Southeast Conference action Thursday vs. Keokuk. Start time for the boys/girls varsity doubleheader is 6 p.m. in Fairfield.
Fairfield vs. West Branch
WEST BRANCH — 10 14 20 8 — 52
FAIRFIELD — 6 14 5 12 — 37
FAIRFIELD — Horras 11, Peterman 8, Dimmitt 6, Carr 3, Hietpas 3, Reid 2, Gamrath 2, Weirup 2, Totals 14 6-8 37
3-point goals — Carr 1, Dimmitt 1, Hietpas 1. Rebounds — Peterman 8. Assists — Reid 2. Steals — Hietpas 2. Blocks — Horras 1