FAIRBORN — An 11-4 run to start the second half gave visiting Vandalia Butler all the confidence it needed, in Friday’s 76-72 Jan. 3 win over Fairborn.
The Aviators were down by seven points (36-29) at halftime, but reeled off a 6-0 scoring run to pull within a point in just over two minutes of the second half. A pair of Cooper Justice free throws about 90 seconds later gave Butler the lead, 41-40. Aves coach Adam Betten said that second-half charge out of the gate really helped his squad.
“I think we just needed to stick to what we do,” Betten said. “In the first half, we were losing our man defensively. In the second half, I just wanted them to step up, stick to their guy, and continue to make them hit tough shots.
“Fairborn was hitting some tough shots in that first half. They’ve got good shooters on that team. We just had to buy in to our half-court defense, in the second half. And I think we did a much better job of doing that and converting it into points on our end.”
Justice, a senior guard, finished with a game-best and season-best 25 points, with 20 of those coming in the second half. Junior guard Tyler Montague also had a season-best night, finishing with 24 points, with 18 of those coming in the second half. Matthew Beverly also finished in double figures with 11 for the Aviators, now 3-5 overall, 3-4 in the Miami Valley League’s Miami division.
The Aviators get back onto the court on Tuesday Jan. 7 when they’ll face another Greene County foe: Xenia plays at Butler for a 7:30 p.m. game.
It was a tough loss for his club, but Fairborn coach Billy Harchick was very pleased with the team’s effort.
“I thought the kids played hard. That was probably one of the better games we’d played all year. The kids got after it. That’s all I can ask them to do. There were some rebounds they gave up, but overall the kids played hard.”
Junior guard Julius Pullen led the Skyhawks (1-8, 1-6 MVL Valley) with his season-high 21 points. Dwight Lewis knocked in 14 points, and Blake Huffman finished with a dozen (his season best) in the loss.
“That second-half run of theirs was a confidence builder for them, yeah. But we had a couple easy shots that we just missed in that second half, then they went on a scoring run,” Harchick said. “That’s basketball. It’s a game of runs. They just had a little bit more than we had tonight.”
Fairborn is back in action on Tuesday as well. The Skyhawks will play host to Piqua for a 7:30 p.m. Jan. 7 contest at the Baker Middle School gym.