The Fayette girls basketball team continued its successful 2015-16 campaign Saturday night at Archbold, defeating Ayersville 48-41 to claim a district title in Division IV.
“It is pretty amazing,” said Fayette senior Taylor Griffiths who had a game high 22 points. “We’ve been playing together since third grade, basically all of us. It is our dream to even make it this far. So hopefully we have a couple more games to make it to state.”
To earn the title, the Eagles had to go through an Ayersville squad who defeated them 55-29 back on Jan. 5. They did so by holding the Pilots to 14 points less than in the first meeting.
“They just really had their way against us the first time around,” said Eagle mentor Scoop Miller. “The kids were focused (this time around) – we knew what we had to do.
“The thing I’m most proud of is we just played really hard for 32 minutes.”
Things got a little hairy for the Eagles as Ayersville’s Molly Hammersmith converted back-to-back buckets and Brittany Addington added one of two free throws to trim Fayette’s lead at 41-40 with 1:22 left in the game.
Then, after the Eagles missed the front-end of a 1-and-1, Alexis Fruchey was there for a putback basket to push their advantage to 43-40.
“I think (it was) just because we wanted to win so bad,” said Griffiths of her team’s execution in the closing minutes. “Our freshmen year we were here and we lost. So just having that (thought on our minds), we wanted to win so bad we were trying anything.”
The Eagle defense came up with the necessary stops and Kaela Seiler went three of four from the foul line and Rylee Ruger added a pair to give Fayette the win.
“I just thought our kids really believed,” added Miller. “They were very confident coming in. They just stayed the course. To see them finish the way they did, did not surprise me because they expected it.”
Ayersville took the lead to begin the contest on Addington’s drive and score, however, they did not lead again until the 1:57 mark of the third period.
Fayette increased its lead to seven in the early minutes of the second quarter when consecutive Griffiths threes made it 16-9 at the 4:44 mark.
However, Ayersville got Addington to split a pair from the line and also added a bucket from Kylee Tressler and Hammersmith on the break to pull within two. The margin stayed this way for the remainder of the half as Hammersmith’s turnaround jumper with 14 ticks to go closed the gap to 22-20 at the break.
Seiler began the third with a triple, but Hammersmith hit a pair from the line and Addington scored on a drive to pull the Pilots within a point. Griffiths answered Addington’s bucket with one of her own, however, Tressler buried a three to knot the score at 27 with 3:05 remaining.
Ayersville held the lead briefly when Addington was fouled and split a pair, but another long range bomb from Griffiths and Fruchey’s bucket on an assist by Seiler put Fayette ahead 32-28 after three.
The Pilots knotted the score at 32 1:43 into the fourth with a bucket for Tressler off an assist by Hammersmith and Kelsey Johnston’s jumper from the foul line. The Eagles then regained the lead for good, going up by three as Seiler split a pair and Griffiths added two free throws of her own.
Outside of Griffiths, Seiler added seven points for the Eagles. Hammersmith paced Ayersville with 16 and Addington had 13.
Fayette (25-1) is at Elida on Thursday for the Division IV regional semifinal where they will take on New London. Tip-off is scheduled for 6:15 p.m.
Eagles top Holgate in district semis
On Thursday, the Eagles outlasted Holgate in the district semifinal by a final of 45-39.
“We knew we had to go out there and fight tooth and nail for 32 minutes. And I thought our kids did,” said Miller. “Holgate goes to the boards so well, and both teams are pretty physical. It was an exciting game to watch. Certainly, you couldn’t afford to take any plays off at either end.”
Fayette held minimal leads for most of the contest and only trailed on three separate occasions, holding off the at times hot three-point shooting of Holgate to get the win.
The Eagles pulled away for good in the fourth quarter, beginning with Alexis Fruchey’s jumper at the 4:58 mark. Fayette’s Kaela Seiler then hit three of four from the foul line and Fruchey added two more from the charity stripe, giving them a 39-29 advantage with 3:02 left.
Holgate’s Gabbi Willett knocked down a three to pull them within seven, and after Fayette came up short at the foul line by missing the front-end of a 1-and-1, Sarah Niese buried a long triple for Holgate to reduce the margin to 39-35 with 1:30 to go.
“That’s not an easy matchup,” said Miller on the difficulty of facing Holgate’s shooters. “They have several girls that can shoot the ball so it’s not like you can just guard one or two out there.”
However, Fayette got a pair of free throws from Hannah Machacek and four from Seiler in between two of three at the line by Niese to lead 45-37 with only 19 seconds left. Emma Willett notched a pair of free throws for the Tigers with six seconds to go but the clock was not on their side.
The Eagles were able to guard the three-point line much better after halftime. They limited Niese to just one triple in the second half after she hit three in the first.
“We had to change things up that second half. Sarah Niese just hit some incredible shots that first half,” said Miller. “I thought our kids did a great job (in) the second half of trying to at least disrupt their rhythm a little bit and make her work to get the ball where she was a little bit less effective.”
The coach also liked his team’s defense inside the paint, as they used the length of Fruchey, Griffiths and Rylee Ruger to pose problems for the Tigers.
“If we did get beat in the perimeter we got size inside to change shots or even get them to kick the ball back out again,” he said. “That was big because (of the fact) Holgate hit so many threes, that we were able to at least maintain the paint inside which was huge.”
In the opening quarter the Eagles exploded out to an 8-2 lead in 2:32 with threes by Alexis Fruchey and Taylor Griffiths, as well as another bucket by Fruchey. Niese and Machacek then alternated triples, followed by Emma Willett who hit a pair at the line.
Fayette closed the frame with a bucket by Seiler and one of two free throws for Griffiths to lead 14-7 after one.
Holgate, aided by consecutive three-point plays from Madilyn Hohenberer and Gabbi Willett, knotted the score at 16 at the 5:49 mark of quarter number two. Seiler regained the lead for the Eagles with a pair of free throws, however, Niese buried a long triple with 3:34 left to put Holgate ahead for the first time, 19-18.
Griffiths’ bucket with 1:02 remaining put Fayette back up one heading into the break.
Gabbi Willett hit a three and Hohenberer scored inside around a two-point field goal for Griffiths to give Holgate a 24-22 lead less than two minutes into the third period.
However, Griffiths answered with a basket off an assist from Seiler, then Ruger scored on back-to-back trips to put the Eagles ahead for good.
Leading the Eagles in scoring was Griffiths who finished with 14 points. Seiler and Fruchey each added 11.
Holgate knocked down seven threes in the contest, led by Niese who hit four and had 18 points. Gabbi Willett added 12 for the Tigers.
Max Householder can be reached at 419-335-2010