Fairfield Ledger

Mt. Pleasant News   Wash Journal
Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 24, 2018

Fairfield falls to top ranked Marion 71-39

By Justin Webster | Feb 27, 2018
Photo by: JUSTIN WEBSTER/Ledger photo Fairfield is shown with their state tournament participant trophy following a 71-39 loss to Marion.

A brilliant trailblazing woman, Billy Jean King, once said, “Champions keep playing until they get it right.”

Although the Fairfield girls’ basketball team lost 71-39 Monday night in the Class 4A state quarterfinals at the Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, this team will graduate two champions and the Trojan program will keep playing. Head Coach Brian Witzenburg will find a way to work harder in the offseason and get his team bigger, stronger, faster and smarter. And they will “get it right.”

As for Monday, the Trojans came out swinging when senior Ashtyn Drish swished a three-pointer 15 seconds into the contest, sending a wave of excitement through the Fairfield half of the arena. Unfortunately, Marion’s Caitlyn Smith answered with a long ball of her own and the game was tied at 3-3 less than a minute in. The other Trojan senior, Nicole Buch, scored her first two points of the quarterfinal to give th Trojans a 5-3 lead, however, the Indians went on a 7-0 run to give Marion a 10-5 lead midway through the opening eight minutes. It wasn’t until junior Kara Jeffrey scored an And one with 2:15 remaining that Fairfield cut the deficit to 10-8. Marion then hit a two down low, but Buch drove the lane on the opposite end and drew a foul before hitting both shots to make it 12-10 with 38.1 on the clock. Of course the Indians answered with a three with :16 left, and then blocked a Trojan heave at the buzzer to take a 15-10 lead to the bench after the opening quarter.

After eight minutes the Trojans were shooting 3-13 from the field, good for 23 percent, while the top-ranked team was 6-14 for nearly 43 percent, but the SEC champs trailed by just five points.

After two unsuccessful Fairfield possessions to start the second period, Marion hit another three to extend their lead to 18-10, putting the Trojans on the ropes with 6:49 in the first half. Fairfield finally answered when Jeffrey laid in two points with 3:20 left. Although the Indians immediately answered with a three to take a 21-12 lead with under three minutes to play, the Trojans went on a 5-0 run to end the quarter to trail by just four points at the break, 21-17, giving themselves and their fans a boost of belief for the second half. Shooting percentages were no better for Fairfield in the second period where they hit 3-13 field goal attempts again, giving them 23.1 percent for each quarter and the game through 16 minutes.

The third quarter is where the game got away from Fairfield. Marion hit back-to-back three pointers in the first minute before Jeffrey stopped the bleeding with a hook shot to make it 27-19 with 6:45 in the third. The Indians then went on another 6-0 run before Nicole Buch hit two free throws and the team called a timeout with 4:52 in the period and the score 33-21, Marion. The champions of the WaMac conference then went on a 18-5 run over the back half of the period, to take a commanding 51-26 lead into the fourth quarter.

Again Fairfield made three shots in the third period, this time on 11 attempts for 27.3 percent shooting from the field. Meanwhile, Marion was 11-15 from the field, including 6-9 from the perimeter. The fourth quarter was more of the same as Marion shot 55 percent on 6-11 field goals, while hitting three more threes on four attempts.

Final stats were Fairfield: 12-44 for 27 percent including 5-16 from the perimeter and 10-11 from the foul line.

Marion was 25-50 for the game, including a state record 14 made three pointers on 29 attempts, good for 48 percent. The Indians were also 7-7 on free throws.

Fairfield trailed 15-10, 21-17, 51-26 and 71-39 at the end of each period with the Trojans leading for 2:09 of the first period. One more key stat is the Indians bench who scored 31 points on 10-17 shooting, including 6-10 from deep.

After the game, The Fairfield Ledger talked with Head Coach Brian Witzenburg and the two senior players about both the game and their experiences.


Q) You’ve been playing with Fairfield on your jersey for a long time, talk about your emotions as that ends tonight.

Nicole Buch: Just to be here is an amazing feeling. To be able to play on this court, with this team, it’s just been one great year. I don’t want it to be done so the emotions are going to be flowing, but just to be here with this team is all I can ask for.


Q) You won the conference, set the scoring record and beat Keokuk. Did you guys achieve so much this year that an appearance at state was the satisfaction you were playing for? Will that help future Fairfield teams come back looking for more?

Buch: They’ll be back for sure. This is a great team coming back and we have a strong eighth grade team with good six and seventh graders right behind them. The future is bright for Fairfield basketball.


Q) It seems like you would have had to play a perfect game tonight to beat Marion.

Buch: They’re a good shooting team, they’re awesome and will probably win it all. Best of luck to them.


Q) What do you want to say to Trojan Nation now that you’re done playing basketball for Fairfield?

Buch: They’ve been amazing. The whole support of the community, little kids and their parents that come up to me in stores and say positive things, it’s been amazing and I couldn’t have asked for a better community to play for. They have really supported me and the team for four years and that’s going to be sad to leave. I think it’ll be the hardest part. I would love to play in my Trojan jersey for another four years for sure.


Q) Are you going to come back and follow this team and Fairfield teams of the future?

Buch: I’ll be back watching games when I can and I expect this team to return to state next year.


Q) Talk about seeing the Fairfield faithful all over this arena for your last game as a senior.

Ashtyn Drish: This community is absolutely amazing, I don’t even know how to describe it. For them to make the two-hour trip to watch us play is huge. There were tons and tons of community members, students, everybody was here and that’s a great feeling.


Q) What’s going to be your best memory from the state tournament experience?

Drish: The whole experience has been great. I think getting here, the final game [against North Scott] and getting here. North Scott was a big game for us and that was a great feeling.


Q) Are you learning that it’s about the journey and not the destination?

Drish: Oh yeah. The memories you make along the way are more important to me than what you may achieve. Playing with these girls is so awesome and I loved getting to know them better and just hanging out with them of the time, it’s been a long season so we know each other pretty well now.


Q) You play a lot of sports and are female, talk about seeing girls celebrated all over this building at the state tournament.

Drish: It’s awesome because it’s usually all, “let’s watch boys” and for this to be such a big tournament and for us to have so many people just come to watch girls basketball is a huge deal for all girls in every sport.


Q) Do you plan on coming back to cheer Fairfield in the future?

Drish: These relationships are something I want to keep forever, especially with my sister playing I’ll be back for as many games as I can and I think I’ll really enjoy watching them a lot.


Q) Still feeling the Trojan pride?

Drish: Oh yeah!


Q) There was a lot of smiles even after the tough loss, talk about that.

Brian Witzenburg: Absolutely, we got here after 28 years. The goal wasn’t to just make it but to win the game, and we felt like we had a good handle on things going into the half. Marion just came out and shot lights out in that second half and we changed defenses up on them, but there’s not a lot you can do when they’re that hot. We switched from a 1-3-1 to a 2-3 to man-to-man defenses and they were still hitting shots.


Q) What does Fairfield need to do to take the next step for the program?

Witzenburg: We just need to keep doing what we’re doing. We have five kids that invest a lot of time that are coming back and that’s a lot to build on. I see another 2-3 kids that can help us out that were’re with us this year. We’re really happy with where this thing is going.


Q) So Fairfield basketball is looking up?

Witzenburg: Absolutely. Our eighth-grade kids have played a lot of basketball and our seventh-graders are playing more and more. They have good numbers in both of those classes and we’re really excited where this thing is going.

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