At times it was like Ohio State and Michigan football…physical.
And at times it was like Ohio State and Michigan defensively, tactfully speaking…rotten.
But in the end the border battle on the basketball court between Fayette and Morenci was decided when Wyatt Mitchell rose above a defender and nailed a hanging 14-foot jumper with 3.2 seconds left to give the Eagles a 56-54 victory in a foul-filled contest at Fayette Monday night.
“He played a whale of a game,” long time Eagle coach Todd Mitchell said after. “He had some turnovers early on that we aren’t too excited about but in the second half he really took care of the ball. He put pressure on them to foul him when he penetrated and either found an open man or hit some big shots.”
A pair of Kaden Frenn triples boosted the Eagles out front 8-0 early as the quick-trigger Bulldogs misfired on their first five attempts.
However, back-to-back steals from Landon Mansfield and Brycen Bachelor in the last 47 seconds resulted in run out hoops to give Morenci a 13-12 lead.
With Fayette holding a slim 19-18 lead, Mitchell went on the first of a pair of personal scoring rallies, tallying up the next nine Eagle points.
The lefty guard hit a pull-up jumper, scored off his own miss, slid down the slot almost literally as he lost his footing on a drive and bank, then hit 3-4 from the line to push the Eagle lead to 28-21.
Mansfield’s triple and Damjen Zimbakov’s 2-2 from the line got Morenci back within a deuce at the half.
The trio of Mansfield, Zimbakov and Bachelor combined for 19 third quarter points as the Bulldogs shot 9-15 from the field to take a 47-42 lead into the fourth.
Frenn’s hoop from Demetrius Whiteside with 5:47 left got Fayette within a pair at 47-45 and Mitchell’s pull up shaved the Morenci margin to 51-50 at the 2:37 mark.
Mansfield’s three-ball pumped the advantage back to 54-50 but Skylar Lester found Frenn slicing through the key for a three-point play with 1:49 to go to again get Fayette back to a one-point deficit.
After a miss at the line, Mitchell canned 1-2 to knot the game and 20 seconds later the Eagles regained possession off a turnover.
Fayette drained nearly the whole clock when Mitchell went right-to-left and tossed in a scissor kick rising jumper for the lead.
“We started making some shots there,” coach Mitchell said of his team’s fourth quarter burst where the Eagles were 5-8 from the floor with just one turnover. “We made some big free throws, defense got a little better then.
“That had to be our poorest defensive effort of the year tonight. I’m so glad we are going back to school tomorrow so we can get back on a normal routine. There were times we didn’t know who we were guarding, that’s just not us. We are better than that.”
Morenci had one last chance and found Bachelor over the top on the baseline, but his 10-footer off the baseline went front rim sending the team from Ohio home happy.
Mitchell’s 23 points led all scorers. Frenn added 15 and Xander Dunnett 11 for the Eagles.
Mansfield had 20, Bachelor 18 and Zimbakov 12 for Morenci.
Fayette (5-4) travels to Stryker Friday night in Buckeye Border Conference action, then Maumee Valley Country Day Monday.