- Rick Cassano Staff Writer
The ball was in the right person’s hands.
Lebanon High School senior Alexis Straw took an inbounds pass with 11.5 seconds remaining and banked in a 3-pointer with two seconds left Monday night, giving the Warriors a 52-49 victory over visiting Fairfield.
“I didn’t think it was going to go in, so it was pretty awesome,” Straw said. “You’ve got all these people screaming at you. I feel like everything slowed down for like three seconds, so it was pretty cool.”
It was Senior Night for Straw, Sydney Hanna and Eva White, so winning the nonconference girls basketball battle was a big deal for Lebanon, which improved to 15-3.
“The great way to end a Senior Night is for a senior to hit a game-winning shot,” Warriors coach Rob Hodges said. “It’s hard to script basketball scenes like that and let ’em happen.
“I’m proud of the girls. They found a way to grind it out with different combinations of lineups. That’s not the first comeback we’ve had to win a game this season.”
Lebanon’s path to victory included a 36-24 deficit early in the fourth quarter. The Warriors could only make 7 of 21 free throws and committed 17 turnovers.
Straw scored 21 points, Kendall Folley had 13 and White added 12 for Lebanon. Folley, a freshman guard and the Warriors’ leading scorer with a 15.3 average, fouled out with 1:47 left in OT.
“We had to get the ball in the open court and give her space to create on her own,” Hodges said of Straw’s game-winning shot. “I didn’t want to tell her what kind of shot to make. It’s a tie game at that point. Even a miss means we still have a shot.”
Straw, who will play at Miami University next season, is known for her driving ability, but opted to launch her shot from beyond the arc at the top of the key. Journee Hicks was her defender.
“I’m dribbling and I saw about five girls in the paint … so I just threw it up there,” Straw said. “It looked like it was going to bank off the rim. It just went in, so I was thankful for that.”
Said Fairfield coach David Loper, “We thought she’d probably go to the hole, but she didn’t. She’s a senior, she’s got ice in her veins, and we lose.”
It all added up to a gut punch for the Indians (9-8), who shot 30.4 percent from the floor, sank 6 of 13 foul shots and had 17 turnovers while failing to hold a double-digit advantage.
Zahrya Bailey scored 17 points and Kayla Summerville added 9 for Fairfield. The visitors converted nine treys, getting three apiece from Bailey and Summerville.
“We made a lot of bad decisions and a lot of bad turnovers at the wrong time, and it cost us the game,” Loper said. “It’s disappointing because the kids worked hard, but we’ve got to learn how to make good decisions.
“We didn’t box out well enough. We didn’t get defensive rebounds, and a lot of those were large. We got our hands on it, but we didn’t secure it.”
Summerville grabbed six rebounds and Shaniyah Reese had five for FHS. Bailey contributed four steals, four boards and three assists.
Loper believes his squad will come back strong Wednesday when the Indians resume Greater Miami Conference play at home against Princeton.
“We don’t have time to dwell on this,” Loper said. “Is it one we should’ve had? Yeah, it was there. But give Lebanon credit. They kept fighting.
“I like my crew. Do we make good decisions all the time? Not so much, but we battle through a lot of adverse situations and things we don’t do well. I like this team in that regard.”
Hodges has come to expect difficult games with the Indians. Lebanon is 6-1 against Fairfield in the last seven seasons, but five of those games have been decided by 3 points or less.
“Fairfield is an outstanding late-season opponent for us,” Hodges said. “Both teams bring it every time we play. We’ve got the upper hand, but I don’t ever shortchange Dave and his girls. It ends up being a really good tournament tune-up for us, and I hope we are for them.
“Now when we get to the tournament, we know we have to make free throws and layups. There’s other factors in the game that help you win like defense and rebounding, but you’ve got to take care of the easiest shots in basketball — free throws and layups — and we were awful at both tonight.”
Sid Rigsby (10), Straw (eight) and White (eight) were the Warriors’ top rebounders. Straw and Folley both dished out three assists, and Molly Lane had three steals.
Lebanon returns to Greater Western Ohio Conference National West Division play at Northmont on Wednesday.
FAIRFIELD (9-8): Shaniyah Reese 2 0 5, Alyssa West 1 0 2, Kelis Jones 2 0 5, Maddie Schaeffer 2 1 5, Zahrya Bailey 5 4 17, Tori Williams 1 0 3, Journee Hicks 1 1 3, Kayla Summerville 3 0 9. Totals: 17-6-49
LEBANON (15-3): Alexis Straw 7 4 21, Sydney Hanna 1 0 2, Eva White 5 2 12, Sid Rigsby 1 0 2, Kendall Folley 5 1 13, Molly Lane 1 0 2. Totals: 20-7-52
3-pointers: F 9 (Bailey 3, Summerville 3, Reese, Williams, Jones), L 5 (Straw 3, Folley 2)