By John Bombatch
FAIRBORN — The Fairborn Skyhawks are still alive in the race to win the Greater Western Ohio Conference’s South Division.
Fairborn shutdown Xenia’s potent offense with a solid defensive display of its own, and nailed free throws down the stretch to claim Friday’s 68-59 win at the Baker Memorial Fieldhouse.
With the win, combined with Springboro’s 58-48 win over Lebanon, Fairborn still can gain at least a share of the GWOC South title.
As it stands right now, Springboro has the division lead with an 8-1 record. Xenia is second at 8-2, and Fairborn is just behind the Bucs at 7-2. Fairborn plays at Springboro with all the marbles up for grabs.
A Skyhawk win, and the three teams will finish in a tie for first place in the division with identical 8-2 records.
A Skyhawk loss, and the Springboro Panthers will claim the title all to themselves at 9-1 with Xenia finishing second.
With the final seconds having fallen off the game clock, the Fairborn players were mobbed by an exuberant Skyhawks student section after the game. Fairborn coach Nathan Chivington didn’t mind his players basking in a little adulation after the game. They’d earned it.
“First of all, we had to survive to keep our hopes alive to win the GWOC South. They got us down early, but my guys were persistent. We just kind of dug in and found a way to battle back. We kept it close in that fourth quarter, and then we were able to pull away in the end,” Chivington said, between pats on the back and handshakes for a job well done. “That was a heckuva job by a lot of guys on this team, especially on defense where we got some late turnovers, made some key shots and grabbed some big rebounds.
“It was a great atmosphere. I love this crowd.”
Xenia looked as if it was going to slowly pull away from Fairborn, especially in the early going.
Buccaneers senior Rocky James didn’t seem like he could miss a shot. The lanky James canned a trio of 3-pointers in the first quarter and had 19 of Xenia’s 23 points in the opening quarter. He had 24 points by halftime, but could muster just four more points in the second half for a game-high 28 points.
Ray James finished with 15 points and Samari Curtis was next with seven for Xenia.
For Fairborn, it was Branden Lilley with the hot hand. The Skyhawks junior finished with a team-high 22 points, 12 of which were scored in the second half. Ryan Profitt was the leading scorer inside with 16 points, Jordan Pumroy was limited to 12 points, and Brandon Easterling was solid on defense and finished with 10.
Xenia coach Kent Anderson said his team just coughed up too many turnovers in the final quarter of play for his Bucs to have a chance at coming back. And the defensive intensity wasn’t consistent throughout the game.
“If you’d have told me that we’d hold Jordan Pumroy to 12 points for a game, I’d have told you that we would’ve won,” Anderson said, “but they had other kids tonight who stepped up and knocked down some big shots. Whether it was Lilley, or it was Leslen Switzer hitting a big three over here on the wing, or Profitt having some good inside-outside plays, and they hit their free throws.
“We have a lot of respect for them. Now we need a little bit of help from them when they play Springboro on Tuesday.”
Fairborn will play at Springboro at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.