Griffins Shake Off Pesky Shamrocks

Daniel Maple battles for the rebound at Eau Claire. (Photo/DeAnna Robinson)

COLUMBIA – Fairfield Central boys head coach Devin Liferidge expected a tough run Tuesday night, and he got it, as his Griffins used a third quarter surge and key free throws down the stretch from Kevin Workman to pull away from the Eau Claire Shamrocks 43-34 Tuesday night in 2A Region III action.

“We expected this would be a dogfight,” Liferidge said, “and that’s what we got. This was one of our toughest road games of the year last year, and even though they are down this year, we knew it would be tough.”

Although Dequan Weldon opened things up for the Griffins with a 3-ball, Eau Claire jetted out to a 7-3 lead through the first three and a half minutes of the game. But the Griffins defense adjusted quickly, and full-court pressure held the ‘Rocks at 7 until the closing minutes. The Shamrock defense, meanwhile, kept Workman off the boards for better than four minutes in the opening period, as the Griffins’ leading scorer went zero for his first five chances. Workman finally broke his dry spell with a layup at the 3:42 mark, cutting Eau Claire’s lead to 7-5. A steal by Jalyn Davis sent him racing into the lane for the fast break, with eyes on a tie. Davis was hammered by the Eau Claire defender, however, and would have to knot the game from the stripe. Eau Claire’s LaMondre Corley severed that tie with a little over a minute remaining in the same manner, giving the Shamrocks the 9-7 edge after one quarter of play.

The Shamrocks stretched their lead to 13-7 early in the second period, but a Davis Layup with 4:40 to go cut that lead to 13-9. Daniel Maple, who kicked in 12 points off the bench Tuesday night, found the inside groove, dumping in back-to-back baskets to tie the game at 13 with 2:34 left in the half. Weldon gave the Griffins their first lead with under two minutes to play, putting the Griffins briefly on top 15-13. The Shamrocks answered, but in the closing seconds Nick Rikard’s inside shot gave Fairfield a 17-15 halftime lead.

“We’re finding our rhythm,” Liferidge said. “I like the rotation we have right now. We’re just so deep. Our guys know what their roles are and they are comfortable with what those roles are.”

The Griffins bench dropped 16 points on Eau Claire Tuesday night, with the constant influx of shooters wearing the Shamrocks down in the second half.

The Shamrocks showed full-court pressure to open the third period, but the Griffins threaded their way through. A Maple layup through the press gave the Griffins a 20-15 lead with 6:06 to go, but the ‘Rocks still had some fight in them. Eau Claire cut the lead to 20-17 with 5:08 remaining, and the game was nip and tuck down the line. Back-to-back steals by Brandon Adams and a free throw by Workman (his first points of the half) provided some breathing room and a 25-20 lead with 2:13 left in the third. With 35 seconds on the clock, the Shamrocks again made things interesting at 27-22, but the Griffins quickly stole away the momentum. Running a set play as the clock wound down, the Griffins worked the ball to Maple at the top of the arch. As the buzzer sounded, Maple turned loose, draining a 3 and putting the Griffins up 30-22 with one quarter to go.

The Griffins had chances to put the game out of reach completely early in the final quarter, but turnovers and missed baskets kept Eau Claire in the hunt. A steal and circus-like reverse layup by Byron Sampson stretched the Griffins’ lead to 34-26 with less than five minutes remaining. As the clock began to catch up with them, the Shamrock defense turned up the juice. Workman, then, came to life, driving into the lane and drawing foul after foul down the stretch.

“We’ve talked about him attacking the lane and being more aggressive,” Liferidge said. “That worked for us tonight.”

Workman hit nine of 10 from the stripe, six in the waning moments to finish the night with 13 points and seal the deal for the Griffins. The win puts the Griffins at 2-0 in region play.

The Griffins travel to Keenan Friday night (Jan. 17) for a showdown with the Region favorites, then travel to Pelion on Tuesday.

“Keenan will be a big test for us,” Liferidge said. “Those were our only two region losses last year. We’ve had this date circled on our calendar all year. We’re going to see what we’re made of.”

FC – 7-10-13-13 – 43

EC – 9-6-7-12 – 34

FC – Dequan Weldon—5, Keith Workman—13, Jalyn Davis—6, Brandon Adams—2, Victor Alston—1, Daniel Maple—12, Nick Rikard—2, Byron Sampson—2.