Derrick Webb, Staff Writer
SEAMAN — Depending on how you look at it, a lesson was taught or learned on Monday.
The lesson’s title? Don’t ever count the Fairfield Lions out.
The Lions taught that course while the entire Southeast District took notes on a 41-39 win over North Adams — one where Fairfield outscored the Green Devils by a 19-7 margin in the fourth quarter.
The comeback attempt, which was led by seniors Emma Fouch and Madison Bronner, was just another highlight in a season full of success for Fairfield.
“We’ve had a great year but this is a huge win for our program. Both groups going on the road and the varsity being down ten before finding a way to get that win, this is momentum moving forward,” McGraw said. “If we get in these situations during tournament time, we’ll know we’re alright. We’ll find a way. We’ve done that the majority of the year. I’m proud of our kids tonight.”
Tale of the tape
North Adams came out swinging.
The Devils, who played with an unmatched intensity for the first 24 minutes of the game, took a 5-2 lead with 6:37 to go in the first quarter on a 3 from Lizzie Gill and a bucket from Ainsley Grooms.
Fairfield then took a 6-5 edge, thanks to baskets from Fouch and Bronner, but North Adams would answer with a 6-0 run — courtesy of Sierra Kendall, Laney Ruckel and Kenlie Jones — before taking an 11-9 advantage into the second.
A fast-paced second quarter saw North Adams continue to lock up Fairfield’s offensive options with constant pressure. Meanwhile, Ruckel and Keetyn Hupp provided the scoring, helping the Devils take a 20-15 lead into halftime.
“I thought we turned it over in the first half several times because we were out of control,” McGraw said. “[North Adams’] pressure got to us and we let that happen. We weren’t spacing the floor. They had a great crowd on Senior Night, and we let that affect us. But that’s something we can take and work on going forward.”
Not much changed in the third.
While Fairfield’s offense was helped to single digits again, North Adams used a mix of Ruckel, Grooms, Kendall and Morgan Shupert — who ended the quarter with a 3 at the buzzer — to extend their lead to 32-22 after three quarters.
However, in the fourth, something clicked for the Lions.
“At halftime, I challenged them and I told them, at that time, that North Adams simply wanted it more,” McGraw said. “I challenged them to box out and rebound. I thought they did a really good job of that as the second half went on.”
Fairfield’s Braylynn Haines started the final quarter’s scoring with back-to-back buckets, cutting the deficit to 33-26. Fouch followed that with a runner at the 5:09 mark and you could feel the momentum starting to change hands.
Ruckel pushed the lead back to seven at 35-28 before Bronner made it a 35-30 tally with 4:35 left. That set the stage for Ella Newkirk, who hit the game’s biggest shot of the night.
The senior was left open in the corner before knocking down a 3 to completely swing the pendulums of momentum onto Fairfield’s bench.
“Ella hit a humongous 3,” McGraw said. “That’s what we’ve been needing out of her. When we need her, we want her to find a way to step up. She did that tonight. That was a huge shot.”
After Newkirk’s shot made it a 35-33 game, Fouch tied it up before finishing a 10-0 run with a 3 of her own at the 3:17 mark. That put the Lions ahead 38-35 and gave the group all the cushion it needed to put away a hard-fought, somewhat improbable two-point win.
“I thought we did a much better job in the second half of rebounding the basketball,” McGraw said. “Then we got into transition. We missed a bunch of shots near the bucket in the first half that we don’t normally miss. Those are game-changers and they started to fall in the fourth.”
Fouch led all scorers with 15 points alongside five rebounds while Bronner posted a double-double of 10 points and 11 boards. Haines had six points, Newkirk added five, and Peyton Magee finished with four points, five rebounds and five assists.
North Adams was led by Ruckel, who posted 13 points, five rebounds and two assists. Jones ended the night with seven points and four rebounds, and Kendall, Hupp and Grooms all had four points each.
What’s on tap
North Adams is set for tournament action as the Green Devils prepare for a first round matchup against Chesapeake on Thursday. Meanwhile, the Lions return to action on Wednesday, ending their regular season with a matchup at Peebles before hosting Westfall on Thursday.
“It’s one game at a time,” McGraw said. “We’re going to prepare tomorrow for Peebles and Westfall. Then we’ll show up to play and get after it.”
Fairfield: 9-6-7-19 — 41
North Adams: 11-9-12-7 — 39
Fairfield: 16-39 FG, 7-10 FT, 2-10 3pt., 28 rebounds (Bronner 11), 20 turnovers, 9 assists (Magee 5). Scoring: Fouch 15, Bronner 10, Haines 6, Newkirk 5, Magee 4, Donley 1.
North Adams: 16-51 FG, 4-8 FT, 3-16 3pt., 22 rebounds (Ruckel 5), 11 turnovers, 10 assists (Ruckel 3). Scoring: Ruckel 13, Jones 7, Grooms 4, Kendall 4, Hupp 4, Shupert 3, Gill 3, Brand 1.