Trojans drop Knoxville 47-43
The Fairfield Trojans closed out their regular season with a 49-43 home win over Knoxville on Thursday night.
In a rather unique twist of fate, the two teams will collide again on Monday night in Round 1 of the postseason at Oskaloosa.
“We know they didn’t show us everything tonight,” said Trojan head coach Tyler Miklo. “They happen to be a good press and trapping team, and we’ll see a lot more of that on Monday night. But we held back on some things, too.”
Knoxville only used its full-court press in the third quarter and briefly in the fourth. With the loss to Fairfield, the Panthers fell to 15-7.
“Tonight gave us the confidence that we can play with them,” Miklo said.
Fairfield (9-11) led 13-10 after one quarter, 28-22 at halftime and 41-28 heading into the final frame.
As for yielding just six third-quarter points, Miklo said, “When we are under control defensively — like we were in that third quarter — we can guard most teams. They are a jump-shooting team. They want to penetrate and kick out. The key to that third quarter is we didn’t bail them out with fouls and let them get to the line. We made them take tough shots.”
With 6:35 left in that third quarter and Fairfield ahead 30-22, Trojan 5-foot-8 guard Dante Cingire dribbled 35 feet to the hoop, flying by one defender and sidestepping a second Panther. Then he delivered a lefty scoop at the tin — avoiding a block by a third defender — got fouled, the ball went through the net, Cingire canned his freebie, and the lead stretched to 11.
“They were trying to force me left there and that was fine,” said the right-handed Cingire. “I’ll finish with the left, whatever I need to do to help us.”
Said Miklo, “That was a great play by Dante. When he’s under control, he makes plays. After that play, he looked over at the bench and said, ‘See, Coach.’ I said, ‘OK, do that every time.’”
Cingire did indeed convert two more excellent slice, dice, dribble-drive scores later in the half.
With a chuckle, Miklo said, “Even though Dante will make my hair turn grey, we love him and he’s our guy.
“Dante is undersized so he does need to play that way, have an edge about him, push hard and stay under control.”
Cingire ended the contest with nine points.
“Dante’s drives were awesome tonight,” said Trojan forward Tristin Waugh.
Waugh and teammate Carson Crile shared game-high scoring honors with 14 points apiece.
Also for Fairfield, Collin Breen scored seven points, James Lyman three and Cole Engle two.
The best pass of the night came from Trojan Cooper Drish.
Ahead 47-43 with 31 seconds to play, Drish was being guarded in the frontcourt, close to the sideline. At once, Crile, standing at the top of the key, raced to the hoop, Drish fired the rock through a small crease and directly to Crile, who laid the ball in — and the win was sealed.
“That was a very good assist by Cooper,” Crile said. “I saw Cooper at the sideline and no one was on me, so I cut. He passed, I finished and that helped us seal the deal.”
Miklo was impressed.
“That was a nice look,” Miklo said. “Cooper is really a defender by trade. We put him in there in the late situations to guard. But in transition, on that play, Cooper was strong with the ball, his head was up, he made the great play and helped us put the game away.”
The Trojans were strong on the glass all night. Crile was chairman of the boards with a game-high 13. Breen grabbed eight rebounds, Cingire seven, Waugh five, Lyman four and Kyle Roberts two.
“This was a huge win for Kyle Roberts, our senior,” Miklo said.
“It’s been awhile since we’ve had a senior who can walk off our home court in our last home game and do so with a win.
“Now, we want to take that next step. Tonight was the easier step. Monday will be the bigger step.”
Said Waugh, “Coach told us we’ll need to raise our tempo twice as much on Monday night — so that’s what we’ll do.”