Griffin Teams Make Strong Run Through Tournament

Fairfield Central’s Shadarius Hopkins (10) brings it to the basket against Swansea.

The Fairfield Central High School basketball teams were home for the holidays this year, hosting 12 boys’ teams and eight girls’ teams from S.C. and Georgia in their inaugural Breast Cancer Awareness tournament. The Lady Griffins advanced to the finals, but were toppled by Miller Grove (Ga.), one of the top high school girls’ teams in the nation. The boys’ squad suffered a loss in round one to Airport, but closed out with wins over Swansea and Camden in the consolation bracket.

Girls

The Lady Griffins were denied the crown in the debut Breast Cancer Awareness tournament at Fairfield Central High School Saturday night as they were outmatched in the finals, 63-30, by the Lady Wolverines of Miller Grove High School (Ga.).

The Lady Wolverines broke the full-court press efforts of Fairfield Central early on with a precision passing game. The Lady Griffins, however, were not so capable, and the Miller Grove defense held Fairfield Central to just nine first-half points. Forced turnovers and transition points boosted the Miller Grove lead to 41-9 at the break, and Raven Rivers, Chelsea Seibles and Tiea Quanna Pearson all found themselves in foul trouble.

Jada Martin led the Lady Griffins with eight points. The Lady Wolverines were led by Klarissa Weaver with 15 and Katie Hunt with 12.

The Lady Griffins cruised through round one Dec. 27, obliterating Brookland-Cayce 52-8.

Freshman Chyna Moore led the way with 23 points, going eight of 16 from the floor and seven of eight from the stripe. Martin went six of 11 from the floor for 13 points and snatched three second-half steals for the Lady Griffins.

Showing the full-court press from the opening tip, Fairfield held the Lady Bearcats scoreless until the 7:20 mark in the opening half, at which time the Lady Griffins held a commanding 17-2 lead. Up 35-6 at the break, Fairfield Central allowed only a single field goal by the Lady Bearcats in the final 16 minutes of play.

The Lady Griffins had a much tougher go of it in the second round as a tenacious Lady Skyhawks team from Hammond forced overtime Dec. 28. The 4-minute extra period was a seesaw struggle, with the Lady Skyhawks taking an early 42-38 edge behind clutch free-throw shooting. Martin drained a 3-pointer with 1:27 left in the period to put the Lady Griffins up 45-44, but Hammond kept pace. With 20 seconds to play, Hammond freshman Margaret Adams hit the back end of a one-and-one to tie the game at 47. Martin then hit a 2-point basket with 7 seconds to go to give the Griffins the 49-47 final. Hammond’s Amoshia Blakeney put up one last effort at the buzzer, but the ball was short of the basket.

The Lady Griffins trailed for nearly the entire game, as Hammond jumped out to an early lead against a Fairfield team that struggled to find the hoop. The Lady Skyhawks led 12-6 midway through the first half, but the full court press helped Fairfield dig out. A buzzer rebound put-back by Pearson tied the game at 16 at the break.

Fairfield went cold again to start the second half, however, and Hammond ran up a 34-28 lead with 6:36 to play. The full-court press forced turnover after turnover, but the Lady Griffins could not convert in the transition. A 3-pointer by freshman Tanise Davis with 5:47 to go cut the Skyhawk lead to 38-33 and provided the Lady Griffins with the spark they had been looking for all game long. As the game raced toward the final buzzer, Christian Thompson nailed a 3-point basket to whittle the deficit down to a single point, 38-37, with just over 44 seconds remaining.

Hammond then turned the ball over on the in-bounds pass play and Jada Martin drew a foul with 31 seconds to play. Martin’s first shot from the stripe rattled out of the rim and the fingernail chewing officially set in for the hometown crowd. But Martin’s second effort was true, and regulation would come to a close knotted at 38.

Boys

Airport High School sent Fairfield Central into the loser’s bracket in the opening round of the tournament Dec. 26. The Eagles, powered by senior guard Manny Polston, toppled the Griffins 52-38. Polston was a monster for Airport, putting up 29 points to lead all scorers.

The Griffins were held scoreless into the 12:57 mark in the first half, but tied the game at 8-all on a 3-pointer by Keith Workman with 9:34 to go in the period. Airport led 20-13 late in the half, but another Workman 3-pointer at the buzzer cut the lead to 20-16.

A full-court press by the Griffins in the second half temporarily stymied the Eagles’ offense and cut their lead to 26-23 with 11:51 left in the game. Daniel Maple came off the bench for the Griffins in the second half to help cut the Airport lead down to 30-29 with 10:23 to play, but Maple also just as quickly found himself in foul trouble and saw limited action for the remainder of the game. The Griffins then went on a scoring drought that lasted more than four minutes, while Polston took command of the floor for the Eagles, stretching their lead to 40-29 at the 6:43 mark.

The Griffins recovered in the next round, sending Swansea home 56-49 Dec. 27. Workman led the Griffins with 20 points. Fairfield Central closed out the tournament Dec. 28 with a 61-41 win over Camden in the consolation bracket. Workman put up 22 points for the Griffins, while Maple added 11.

Both boys’ and girls’ teams travel to Columbia High School Jan. 4 for their region opener. Girls tip at 6:30 p.m.