Chester overcomes slow start; downs Griffins

CHESTER – To shake off a slow start and pull away from Fairfield Central last Friday, Chester Coach Sebastian Hopkins said his players just needed to move their feet…and their mouths.

Despite leading for much of the game, the Griffins fell short in the final quarter. | Travis Jenkins

“We came out sluggish and flat. We weren’t communicating on the floor. Once we started to talk and move our feet, that got us going,” Hopkins said.

The Cyclones moved to 2-0 in region play with a 61-44 victory over the Griffins, while Fairfield dropped to a 0-4 conference record.

Coming off of a narrow 1-point loss to Chester on Tuesday, Fairfield’s plan for revenge was successful in the first half. Trailing Fairfield 37-35 late in the third, the Cyclones forced a turnover, pushed the ball inside and got a bucket from Dujuan Clifton. That marked the first tie of the contest since it was 0-0 at the opening tip. Chester took its first lead one possession later when Clifton grabbed an offensive rebound and scored on a put-back at the buzzer to make it 37-35.

Those two baskets sent Chester on a 15-0 run that all but put the game away. In fact, Fairfield Central managed only one field goal in the final 10 minutes of the game. Qua Williams was a big part of turning the close game into a comfortable win, going for 10 points in the final frame, which included a three-pointer and a 4-of-5 performance from the free throw line. Defensively, the Cyclones turned up the pressure, forced the visitors into numerous turnovers and converted those into buckets. They also dominated on the boards, getting second-chance opportunities on the offensive end and limiting the Griffins to one shot on most trips down the court.

Early on, it was Fairfield Central that excelled on the defensive end. They worked in a lot of zone defense, which limited Chester’s inside game. On top of that, the Cyclones couldn’t hit a jump shot early. The Griffins got a three-pointer from Stephon Gadsden and a pair of buckets (including one in transition) from Floyd Peay. Chester got only one field goal in the opening quarter and trailed 9-2.

The Cyclones got things going a bit offensively in the second quarter and loosened up the Fairfield Central defense by finally connecting on a couple of jump shots. The team only managed four field goals in the stanza (Williams had two of those and six points) but were more aggressive in taking the ball inside. The fouls started piling up for the Griffins and Chester was able to cut the deficit within two points at one time. Fairfield got seven points in the quarter, though, from Ce’Aundreis Gladden and held onto a 24-18 lead at the break.

In the third, Chester started to assert itself underneath. Zan Dunham was a big part of that, playing good defense inside, rebounding well and scoring a pair of baskets in the paint. Williams had six points as did Clifton, with his two buckets in the final minute of the quarter putting the Cyclones ahead for good.

Williams led all scorers with 21 points. Dunham had 10 and Clifton chipped in eight, all of which came in the second half. Gladden and Gadsden had 10 each for Fairfield Central.

Fairfield Central picked up a big win in the girls contest, downing Chester 47-18. Deasia Feaster actually outscored Chester by herself, putting up 20 points. The game was never close, with Fairfield Central leading 15-6 after one and 29-10 at halftime. Kamryn Radford paced Chester with nine points.

Feaster also contributed four rebounds, a steal and a block. Junior Madisen Belton had 12 steals, 8 points, 6 assists and three rebounds on the night.

The Griffin boys are set to host York on Friday. Both teams will return to action against Lower Richland at home on Jan. 26.