FAIRBORN — Jana Brown-Griffith has recorded 323 rebounds in her career at Fairborn.
But perhaps none was bigger than the one the senior had Feb. 11 against Xenia. The weak-side carom next to the basket, off a missed baseline jumper, led to a game-winning layup with .09 left and a 41-40 win over Greene County rival Xenia on Senior Day.
Xenia tried to get a last shot off, but it was short and officials waved it off when time expired.
“I was ready for that rebound,” said Brown-Griffith, who had 11 rebounds and 10 points. “I was getting in position. I was confident in myself. I knew it was going in.”
While Fairborn (11-11, 8-6 Greater Western Ohio Conference American South) greatly benefited from that one rebound, the Skyhawks needed every point from Brown-Griffith along with the 14 from Kaylie Cook, 10 from Evelyn Oktavec, five from Marina Suarez and two from Chloe Johnson.
That’s because the Buccaneers played one of their best, most inspired games this season, leading after every quarter but the final one while keeping Oktavec, the GWOC’s No. 7 scorer, in check until late in the game. The scrappy Bucs (5-17, 3-11) led by as many as five in the final few minutes, but missed five of six free throw tries in the last 58.5 seconds, allowing Fairborn to escape with a win. For the game, Xenia made 12 of 30 free throws.
“We had our chances,” Xenia coach Kyle Gray said. “One play short. Hats off to them. They made the play when it counted. I’m proud of our effort. It’s a shame somebody had to lose.”
The comeback win was just what Fairborn needed after a 20-point loss Feb. 8 to Miamisburg, which has just six wins.
“Going into the tournament, it gives us a lot of confidence,” Coach Billy Harchick said. “We needed that, especially for the seniors on Senior Night.”
In addition to scoring the game’s final points on a rebound, Brown-Griffith also scored the first the same way, going for a put-back bucket and drawing a foul. She made one of two and quickly followed that with a fast-break bucket and a quick 3-0 lead, to be followed by another rebound bucket a few minutes later to give Fairborn a 5-2 lead.
Xenia went on an 8-3 run to close the quarter, sparked by five points from Alexis Claybaugh. The lead reached 14-9 early in the second after a pull-up jumper from Jada Wallace and a free throw from Adri Winston. Cook scored two straight to keep Fairborn close but then Xenia’s Trinity Morton-Nooks scored nine straight for Xenia to help the Bucs open a 23-17 lead with 2:23 left in half.
Oktavec hit a long three-pointer and then Cook followed with a pull-up three-pointer to tie it, then a Suarez bucket gave Fairborn a 25-23 lead with 47 seconds left. Morton-Nooks hit a three-pointer with 31 seconds left to give Xenia a 26-25 halftime lead.
Johnson gave Fairborn a 27-26 lead with 5:26 left in the third, but Fairborn didn’t score again until the final minute. Welsh took over for Xenia, scoring all eight Bucs points leading to a 34-30 lead after three.
An Oktavec three-pointer got Fairborn rolling 35 seconds into the third quarter and then Brown-Griffith tied it with a free throw with 6:48 left. But Welsh and Wallace teamed up to give Xenia a 39-34 lead with 2:32 left.
Cook scored to make it 39-36 with 2:16 left and after two missed free throws from Xenia, Oktavec cut the score to 39-37 with a pair of free throws with 1:17 left.
Fairborn appeared to have stolen the ball, but a foul was called and Morton-Nooks made one of two from the line with 58.5 seconds. Seconds later, Oktavec was fouled and made a pair of free throws to set up Brown-Griffith’s final play.
“Very special moment for her,” Harchick said. “She worked her butt off. She’s been doing that all year for us.”
Morton-Nooks led Xenia with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Welsh had 12 points, eight rebounds, six steals and four assists, while Jada Wallace added six points and 14 rebounds.
Fairborn, seeded 13th in the sectional tournament, plays No. 14 Franklin at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 20 at Troy High School. Xenia, the 16 seed, takes on No. 15 Troy at 3 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 18 at Vandalia Butler High School.
Contact Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.