Derrick Webb, Staff Writer
LYNCHBURG — First-game jitters. Everybody seems to have them.
Luckily for Fairfield, Monday’s jitters only lasted throughout the duration of the first half. In the final two quarters, the Lions shook off the nerves and pulled away from Lynchburg-Clay.
After trailing 25-24 at halftime, Fairfield (1-0, 1-0 SHAC) held the Mustangs to just 14 second half points en route to a season-opening 50-39 win in Southern Hills Athletic Conference action.
“The first half was pretty ugly. We might’ve had 10 turnovers in the first quarter. A lot of that was just being in a hurry, trying to push it too much,” Fairfield coach Chad Hamilton said. “We’re not a veteran group, but essentially we are. These girls have all been around a year or two. So in the second half, we went back to the basics. We cut down the turnovers and kept composure.”
And Emma Fouch kept shooting.
The junior All-Ohio guard admitted she didn’t have the best night. However, her performance was still good enough for a game-high 22 points.
“We’ve got four or five girls that could score 20 on any given night,” Hamilton said. “We’re trying to manage that a little more, as far as percentages and who’s taking what shot when, where and why. It’s something we’ve talked about a lot. But you have to feed the hot hand. Emma is by far our best shooter, and she’s maybe the best shooter in the league when she’s hot.”
The Mustangs (0-2, 0-2 SHAC) jumped out to a 6-0 lead before Fairfield’s Madison Bronner scored back-to-back buckets in the first quarter. Fouch then nailed two lay-ups to put the Lions ahead at 8-6 with 2:48 to go. That two-point lead would stand at 13-11 by the end of the first.
With 4:14 to go in the second, Fairfield’s Ella Newkirk went coast-to-coast after causing a turnover, giving the Lions a 20-14 lead. Fouch then tacked on a bucket and a pair of free throws to make it a 10-point lead with 2:51 left.
But that’s when the Mustangs made their run.
Thanks to the likes of Sierra Benney, Kayln Rich and Jade Massey, Lynchburg went on a half-ending 11-0 run to take a 25-24 edge at the break.
“We knew that 11-0 run was them hitting 3’s and us getting lost in our zone, and them beating us down the floor,” Hamilton said. “Those are just effort and execution items. I’m proud of the girls and how they responded in the second half.”
Fouch immediately dialed long distance in the third, putting Fairfield ahead 27-25, before Newkirk later gave the Lions a 31-30 lead with a runner. That was the final time the lead changed hands.
“I thought Ella Newkirk got into the passing lanes a lot on defense and had steals and even more deflections,” Hamilton said. “I thought she played really well. Madison Bronner came up with some big baskets, and when she drops her shoulder, she’s tough to guard.”
After Fairfield’s Peyton Magee made it a 33-30 score at the end of the third, she hit a 3 with 7:10 remaining to push the lead to 36-30. Fouch put a capper on a 9-0 run with 5:28 to go, making it 38-30, before Bronner scored with 1:24 left for a 45-35 count.
From there, the Lions matched the Mustangs shot for shot and hit their foul shots in crunch time.
After Fouch’s 22 points, Bronner finished with eight points and a team-high eight rebounds while Newkirk had seven points and three assists. Magee also helped out, tallying seven points, seven rebounds and two assists.
For Lynchburg-Clay, Benney led the way with 16 points alongside seven boards. Bry Price added five points and eight rebounds and Massey had six points, four rebounds and five assists.
The Lions are back in action on Wednesday, hosting East Clinton, while the Mustangs attempt to bounce back on Thursday at home against Eastern Brown.
“I didn’t think we shot well to begin with but we got them when we needed to in the second half,” Hamilton said. “We were a little out of control at times but I’ll take it. We’re not going to dwell on it and move forward.”
Fairfield: 13-11-9-17 — 50
Lynchburg-Clay: 11-14-5-9 — 39
Fairfield: 20-46 FG, 6-11 FT, 4-15 3pt., 27 rebounds (Bronner 8), 22 turnovers, 10 assists (Newkirk 3). Scoring: Fouch 22, Bronner 8, Newkirk 7, Magee 7, Haines 6.
Lynchburg-Clay: 14-52 FG, 7-8 FT, 4-19 3pt., 27 rebounds (Price 8), 24 turnovers, 9 assists (Massey 5). Scoring: Benney 16, Massey 6, Price 5, Walker 4, West 4, Rich 4.