By Brian Lacy
For The Times
In a physical contest that saw plenty of bodies knocked to the ground, Fairview stood tall in the end, outlasting Oneonta 55-44 to claim the Class 4A, Area 13 championship Monday night at Joe Shults Gymnasium.
Blake Parker scored a game-high 17 points — most from the charity stripe — and Luke Bailey scored 16 points — most from beyond the 3-point arc — to lead the Aggies, who secured a home, sub-regional playoff game Friday night at 7 p.m. against Butler.
“That was our goal, to get that sub-region game here, and we’ve done that,” said Fairview coach Greg Boatright while watching his players receive the area championship trophy. “Now, we know we’re going to have to play our best basketball to advance to the regional, but at least we don’t have to get on that bus.”
After a slow start, the Aggies attacked the basket for the final three quarters, and it proved to be the difference. Fairview made 19 of 21 free-throw attempts, and Oneonta had to work around foul trouble to star players Jalen Johnson and Stedman Bothwell before both fouled out late in the game. Meanwhile, the Redskins struggled to make shots from the field and converted only three of its six free-throw attempts.
“Oneonta is strong and athletic and they play a physical brand of basketball, so I was proud of my guys for stepping up to the plate and matching it,” Boatright said. “Free throws are always big. In a tight game, they can make you or break you. We’ve done a good job from the line lately, so that really paid off for us tonight.”
Oneonta jumped out to an 8-3 lead in the first five minutes thanks to its defense. The Redskins used what Boatright called a 1-1-3 zone that evolved into a 2-3 zone to clog the lane. The Aggies settled for long jump shots or turned the ball over for most of the first quarter until layups by Parker and Elijah Garrison, plus a pair of free throws from Bailey, gave the Aggies a 9-8 lead at the end of the first quarter.
“We didn’t move the ball very well and we didn’t move and cut and get where we were supposed to be quick enough,” Boatright said of his team’s slow start. “Once we got that fixed, we started scoring. Once we had the lead, we tried to pull their big guy (Bothwell) out of the paint and have an advantage on the perimeter.”
Once the Aggies solved the riddle of Oneonta’s zone, the Redskins played man-to-man defense. That allowed Fairview the drive inside for layups and free throws, or penetrate and pass it back out to the perimeter, where Bailey had the hot hand, sinking four 3-point shots. He sank two 3-pointers in the second quarter, made his third in the opening minute of the third quarter, and gave Fairview it largest lead of the night at 38-24 on the first possession of the fourth quarter.
The Redskins, behind 15 points from Johnson and seven apiece by Bothwell and Forrest McDonald, stayed within striking distance for most of the second half but never seriously challenged in the fourth quarter. The Aggies made seven of eight free throws down the stretch, and got layups from Ethan Widner and Garrison following offensive rebounds to clinch the victory.