FAIRFIELD — Trailing by 10 points with six and a half minutes remaining, the Fairfield High boys basketball team rallied on offense and defense to top visiting Benicia 71-67 in Solano County Athletic Conference play.
Offensively, the Falcons (14-10, 6-1 SCAC) took excellent care of the ball in the fourth quarter, not turning it over, and outscoring the Panthers (15-9, 6-2 SCAC) 27-14 over the final eight minutes.
On defense Fairfield forced four turnovers in the quarter and capitalized on all four, while also holding Benicia scoreless for stretches of 2 minutes, 5 seconds and 3:07 in the fourth.
Benicia took a 59-49 lead on a basket by Koree Cox with 6:30 to play, but Fairfield put up a 6-0 run to get within four at 59-55.
Cox added a bucket and a free throw to extend the lead to 62-55 with 4:33 to play and the Panthers went silent.
Meanwhile, Fairfield shooters got hot.
John Jones swished a 3-pointer from the right corner to get Fairfield within one at 62-61 and Maurice Trotter sank a pair of free throws with 2:57 left to take a 63-62 lead.
A 13-0 run concluded with a Raimauri Barron steal and a long pass to Jones for the layup and a 68-62 lead with 1:05 to play.
The Panthers refused to go away, getting a Cox free throw and a pair of fast-break layups from Marcus Turner to narrow the gap, but Sean Gray nailed three of four free throws in the final 17 seconds for the final margin.
“Our energy and our intensity picked up and we kind of challenged ourselves,” Falcons coach Tony Bryant said. “We knew that we had to pick up our intensity. We were the home team and it just seemed like they out played us in the first half, so it was really gut check time.”
Fairfield shot a dismal 25 percent in the first half and Benicia held a 26-10 rebounding advantage as well as a 35-28 lead at halftime.
“Second shots, we talked about that at halftime and that we needed to try to contain them on the boards, but more importantly we needed more ball pressure and to kind of speed it up a little and try to go get a little bit of transition,” Bryant said.
That plan worked in the second half as DeMoriaye Hart-Spikes led a 10-2 run to get the Falcons back into the game to start the third quarter.
Hart-Spikes poured in a game-high 29 points and he scored 13 of the Falcons’ 16 in the third with three of his six 3-pointers.
“That kid is amazing. He’s a big-game player,” Bryant said. “Exciting to watch, fun to coach. He gets active, so he’s somebody that I know is going to step up when the lights are bright and he made some big, huge shots and some big plays for us.”
Overall, 36 of Fairfield’s 75 floor shots came from 3-point range. Of those 10 were successful.
“We were dying by the 3 for a good, long stretch and I just had to talk to them and tell them to keep their confidence up and if we had good looks we still wanted to attempt them,” Bryant said.
Seven of the Falcons’ treys were in the second half.
Jones added 13 points for Fairfield and Maurice Trotter had eight to go with 10 rebounds.
Hart-Spikes pulled down nine boards.
The win avenged a 69-56 loss at Benicia on Jan. 15 and leaves Fairfield in a tie for first place with Bethel, which the Falcons visit Tuesday.
Reach Mike Corpos at 427-6979 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/mcorposdr.