FAIRFIELD — After going back and forth with Foothill of Sacramento for most of the first half, the Fairfield High boys basketball team found another gear and vaulted itself to a 68-55 victory in the opening round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoffs Wednesday night.
Once the ninth-seeded Mustangs scored their final basket of the half, a 3-point bomb by Anthony Williams to tie it at 27-27, the No. 8 Falcons exploded for a 27-9 run that spanned the final 2 minutes, 24 seconds of the first half and the entire third quarter.
That left Fairfield (16-12) leading 54-36 after three – a lead that was never seriously threatened.
“I thought we took care of the basketball better, we definitely blocked out better than what we did in the past and our intensity was high,” said Falcons coach Tony Bryant.
Foothill closed to within 11 early in the fourth quarter at 58-47, but a layup by DeMoriaye Hart-Spikes, a long jumper from Sean Gray (11 points) and a rebound and a reverse layup by Anthony Bryant ran Fairfield’s advantage back to 17 at 64-47 with 3:33 to play.
The Falcons hung on from there, despite committing seven of their 16 turnovers in the fourth.
In the first three quarters, Fairfield coughed the ball up just nine times, while forcing 14 Foothill gaffes over that stretch.
Ultimately, though, it was about the Falcons’ offense – they shot 52.9 percent (27 of 51) from the floor – using the turnovers to generate offense.
“I don’t know that we shot the ball particularly well from the outside, but we got some layups, we got some transition and we were able to turn them over a little bit and that always helps us,” Bryant said.
Leading the way again was Hart-Spikes, who poured in a game-high 28 points.
“I guess he just scores in spurts and a lot of times I am unaware of his point total and what he does as far as on the offensive side,” Bryant said. “I’m concentrating on coaching him up defensively and making him better as a defensive player.”
With the Falcons trailing 14-13 after the first quarter, Hart-Spikes put up the first 12 of Fairfield’s 21 points in the second to key the huge run.
Also coming up big for Fairfield was forward Maurice Trotter with 14 points and 10 rebounds.
“He played well,” Bryant said, noting that Trotter spent much of the season recovering from an injury. “That was the best that he played since he’s been back and hopefully this springboards him into Friday night’s game because he’s going to have to have a big night for us on Friday and he just looked confident tonight.”
Friday’s matchup a huge one as the Falcons head to No. 1 Modesto Christian, which blasted Manteca 58-16 Wednesday.
“This is very big. This is going to give us the inspiration to go play hard next game in front of the No. 1 team,” Hart-Spikes said. “It’s going to be hard, they already have two (NCAA) Division I players and they’re already crowned champions, so it’s going to be hard for us.”
While not impossible, Bryant knows his team has its work cut out.
“We’ve got to be better than what we were tonight,” he said. “I think everybody in the section was hoping to avoid them, but at some point, we felt we were going to have to face them. So it’s good to be facing them in a high school gym and I think my team’s looking forward to that challenge.”
Reach Mike Corpos at 427-6979 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/mcorposdr.