After going three overtimes the night before in a loss to Montpelier, Fayette found themselves in another back and forth final stanza against Buckeye Border Conference rival Stryker Tuesday night.
But with the Panthers up 40-39, it was the Eagles’ Elijah Lerma who fired the decisive shot with a triple from the head of the key with 21 ticks left that gave Fayette a 42-40 triumph.
Stryker had one last chance but Teyvon Harris — who topped the Panthers with 14 points — was pressured by Tanner Wagner and an Eagle double-team and misfired with 5.3 to go.
“I told the guys in the locker room that I wasn’t real sure what energy they had left in the tank,” said Fayette coach Todd Mitchell. “I subbed quite a bit more tonight, trying to have fresh bodies in there and I thought our bench gave us great minutes.”
One of those off the bench was senior Tyrese Pearson who, in a stale first half by both teams, gave the Eagles a big boost offensively.
Pearson’s basket on a feed from Wagner forged an 8-8 tie after a quarter, then his last two scores of the first half from Wyatt Mitchell and Lerma put Fayette up 17-16 at the break.
“Tyrese isn’t known much for scoring,” expressed Mitchell. “But he got six tonight and 100 percent from the floor. He’s just an energy guy who goes hard all the time. I thought Demetrius Whiteside gave us good minutes off the bench and Wyatt Mitchell gave us good minutes; we talked about it in the locker room it was a good team win.”
Lerma’s three-ball pushed the Eagles’ lead to 20-16 before Payton Woolace hit from inside to cut the lead in half with 6:18 to go in the third.
Phillip Whiteside’s drive began a 9-0 Eagle run that inclulded an Eli Eberly 3-pointer, Lerma’s up and under move and capped by Wagner’s basket off an out-of-bounds play that pumped the Fayette lead to 29-18 with 3:28 on the clock.
“We need to share the ball the way we did because we aren’t blessed with a true post presence so we have to move the ball and get the defense out of position,” explained coach Mitchell of his team’s big run.
However, Stryker wasn’t finished as Levi Barnum’s basket to start the fourth, Spencer Clingaman’s three-ball and Barnum’s putback off a missed free throw got the Panthers within 35-34.
Harris’ basket that regained a one-point Panther lead began a string of six alternating lead changes.
Eberly scored off a press break to put Fayette up. Harris hit a pair from the stripe to give the lead back.
Lerma scored on an out-of-bounds play as the first option off a circle cut.
Again Harris got inside and scored from mid key for a 40-39 Panther lead with 39 seconds left.
It was Kaden Frenn on an inside-out game who found Lerma at the top of the circle and the junior guard hit nothing but net with 21 seconds left to make it 42-40.
“It was big,” exclaimed Mitchell. “We got the ball in the paint and kicked it out and he knocked it down. I was thinking here we go again after last night, back and forth the entire fourth quarter and the three overtimes as well. It’s just a big win for the kids.”
Lerma had 16 points to lead the Eagles — 14 of which came in the second half.
Reach Joe Blystone at [email protected]