Fairfield rallies past slumping Golden Hawks
FAIRFIELD — Landon Gamrath was tired of losing, so the Trojan junior did something about it.
The 6-foot-7 center scored a career-high 16 points off the bench Monday, including seven in the fourth period, to help Fairfield erase an eight-point fourth-quarter deficit and edge Mid-Prairie 46-44 in Fairfield.
Trailing 39-31 with seven minutes remaining, Fairfield received a putback from freshman Jordan Reid, followed by five straight points from Gamrath to cut the deficit to 41-38. Baskets by junior Vince Horras and senior Spencer Peterman handed Fairfield a 42-41 lead at the two-minute mark, and a bank shot by Gamrath increased the lead to three with 40 ticks remaining.
The game appeared destined for overtime when a 3-pointer from Mid-Prairie junior Spencer Shalla hit its mark with 15 seconds to go, but Horras and Peterman both hit one foul shot apiece in the closing moments to hold onto the victory.
“When they believe in each other they’re a much better team. It just took a while to gain that trust and buy into what we’re trying to do,” said third-year Fairfield head coach Tyler Miklo. “They’re starting to figure out how hard they need to play all the time to win games.”
Gamrath echoed his coach’s sentiments.
“It’s more just a matter of we have the talent, we just have to do it,” Gamrath said. “We’ve got a good start [to 2013]. We’ve just got to keep going.”
With the emergence of Gamrath as well as solid play throughout the lineup, Fairfield (3-8, 1-3 SEC) is arguably in its best stretch of the season, having won two of its last three games.
Mid-Prairie, meanwhile, has been going the opposite direction. The Golden Hawks have lost five of the past six games and sit at 6-6 overall.
Fairfield built a 7-2 advantage to start the game, thanks to a pair of 3-pointers by senior Darrin Dimmitt. A 7-0 run by the Golden Hawks toward the end of the first quarter put them in front, but two straight scores by Gamrath in the final minute made it 13-11 Fairfield after one.
Both teams traded points in the second quarter, with Fairfield entering the locker room up 23-22.
In the third quarter, however, Mid-Prairie took the lead back and built a 33-27 advantage on back-to-back baskets by juniors Dayton Hall and Nicholas Stimson. Fairfield closed the gap to 33-31, yet a 6-0 run by Mid-Prairie handed the away team its biggest lead of the night before the furious rally by Fairfield in the game’s final seven minutes.
“I think our press was working. We were getting turnovers and scoring off of those turnovers,” Mid-Prairie head coach Chris Kern said of his team’s third-quarter success. “For whatever reason there at the end, we kind of went into a shell offensively. We made some shots a little harder than they needed to be.”
Kern added closing games has been a problem for his team this season.
“We’ve had some trouble with closing and we blew some pretty easy shots late in the game,” the first-year head coach said. “We’ve got to learn to finish those games like that, and I thought we missed some key free throws down the stretch that really hurt.”
With his game-high 16 points, Gamrath broke a previous career-high set just last Friday. The junior has scored 54 points in 11 games this winter, with 26 points coming in the last two games.
“The guys are doing a good job of finding [Gamrath], and he’s keeping the ball high and he’s finishing,” Miklo said. “I’m definitely happy to see that progress there.”
Also for Fairfield, Peterman scored 10 points to go with 10 boards, Dimmitt scored eight points and Horras had five. Matt Carr scored three, while Joe Hietpas paced the offense with five assists.
Hall led the Golden Hawks with 13 points, Shalla scored nine and Stimson finished with seven points.
“I thought Dayton Hall and Reid Miller both had some key shots for us,” Kern said. “I thought David Aldeman played well off the bench, and Spencer Shalla played a good defensive game inside for us.”
Mid-Prairie will be back in action today when it hosts Iowa City Regina.