LEESBURG — After an offensive barrage in the first quarter, Blanchester and Fairfield appeared to be on pace for a wild offensive shootout Tuesday night at Fairfield High School.
However, the Lions’ defense tightened up after the opening quarter, holding the Wildcats to just 36 percent shooting over the final three quarters in a 75-66 victory.
Blanchester (6-10) made 8 of 10 shots from the floor in the quarter, including a perfect shooting quarter from Brayden Sipple. Sipple’s 15-point opening quarter helped propel Blanchester to a 25-20 lead after one.
Fairfield made a change in the second quarter, bringing sophomore Conner Priest in to defend the Wildcat sharpshooter.
“One of the big differences was Conner Priest,” FHS head coach Josh Howland said. “He came in and defended Sipple well. I’m not going to say he shut him down because you can’t shut that dude down. I thought he played very good defense on him. Made him earn everything.”
Priest and his Lion teammates not only held Sipple scoreless in the second quarter but drew two fouls on him.
“(Fairfield) realized they were really going to have to hang on (Sipple),” BHS head coach Adam Weber said. “Obviously that third foul … that was when the offense took a stall.”
This sent Sipple to the bench with 3:26 left in the half. Fairfield could only add one point to its lead over the rest of the half, as the Lions led 37-35 at the intermission.
In the second half, Blanchester had no answer on defense for Fairfield. The Lions shot a blistering 61 percent in the half (11 of 18). Meanwhile, Blanchester took 29 shot attempts in the half, making just 10.
Fairfield (8-7) kept the Wildcats at arms-length in the second half, leading most of the way by two or three possessions.
Trailing 71-66 with 45 seconds left, Blanchester had a chance to pull to within one possession. Sipple’s shot fell short, and the Lions iced the game at the free throw line.
Bryson Simmons led four Lions in double figures with 24 points. He also had four assists. James Bentley had 17 points and 12 rebounds. Ethan Saunders (14 points) and Wyatt Willey (13) also scored in double figures.
Fairfield dominated inside, outrebounding Blanchester 31-21 including 15-10 on the offensive glass.
“We talk about it every day. Rebounding and defense is all desire,” Howland said. “Who wants it more? If we want it more, we’re going to get the rebound. We’ve just got to execute, and I thought the boys did a nice job of that.”
Sipple led the Wildcats with 24 points. Jacksson Waialae kept the Wildcats in the game in the second half. He had 14 of his 20 points after halftime.
Still, Weber was frustrated to watch his team lose an early lead and fall short.
“We don’t get rebounds when they matter,” Weber said. “We don’t have people show up regularly … that’s our season in a nutshell.”
Score by quarters
BLANCHESTER (fg-3fg-ft-tp) Ian Heeg 3-2-0-8, Tanner Creager 1-0-0-2, Brayden Sipple 7-2-8-24, Jacksson Waialae 6-5-3-20, Jay Ashcraft 1-0-0-2, Hunter Bare 4-0-2-10. TOTALS 22-9-13-66.
FAIRFIELD (fg-3fg-ft-tp) Austin Setty 0-0-2-2, Wyatt Willey 3-2-5-13, Ethan Saunders 6-0-2-14, Bryson Simmons 8-3-5-24, Conner Priest 2-0-1-5, James Bentley 8-0-1-17. TOTALS 27-5-16-75.
FIELD GOALS: B 22/49 (Sipple 7/17, Waialae 6/11, Bare 4/6); F 27/51 (Bentley 8/12, Simmons 8/15, Saunders 6/10)
3 POINT FIELD GOALS: B 9/18 (Waialae 5/8, Heeg 2/3, Sipple 2/5); F 5/10 (Simmons 3/6, Willey 2/2)
FREE THROWS: B 13/15 (Sipple 8/9, Waialae 3/4); F 16/21 (Willey 5/6, Simmons 5/5)
REBOUNDS: B 21 (Bare 5, Sipple 5, Waialae 5); F 31 (Bentley 12, Saunders 7)
ASSISTS: B 9 (Creager 3); F 13 (Simmons 4, Setty 3, Willey 3, Bentley 3)
STEALS: B 5 (Sipple 3); F 8 (Simmons 3, Bentley 2)
BLOCKED SHOTS: B 4 (Bare 3, Creager 1); F 1 (Bentley)
TURNOVERS: B 16; F 14
Matt Sexton is a stringer for the Wilmington News-Journal.