Washington clamps down on Fairfield in the second half
After Fairfield’s Sidney Baumann scored half of her team’s 18 points in the first half of Friday’s Southeast Conference game at No. 14 Washington, the host Demons did everything they could to keep the ball out of the senior point guard’s hands in the third quarter.
The result was a 15-2 run that turned an 18-18 halftime tie into a 50-36 Washington victory.
“We kind of locked in on Sidney Baumann a lot because she was their main shooter,” Washington senior Lauren Kimball said. “She clearly scored a lot, so we locked in on her and went full deny on her.”
With the ball not in Baumann’s hands, Fairfield turned the ball over nine times in the third quarter and attempted just two shots from the field. A pair of free throws by junior Hanna Greiner accounted for the Trojans’ third-quarter scoring.
“We went six or seven minutes without scoring, which has kind of been our bugaboo all year,” Fairfield head coach Mick Flattery said. “We weren’t able to knock down shots. We weren’t tough enough in the third quarter. That was the difference in the game right there.”
Kimball missed a 3-pointer to start the third quarter, but teammate Stephanie Fishback put back the miss to give the Demons their first lead since early in the first quarter. Greiner made one of two free throws on the other end, but Washington senior Sammy Ellingson came back with a driving layup that sparked a 10-0 Demon run. Washington junior Dema Giardino sank a 3-pointer with three seconds left in the quarter that gave the Demons a 33-20 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
“We adjusted our full-court pressure at halftime and tried to go more man to deny Baumann in the full court and force their other players to handle the ball,” Washington head coach Phil Long said. “That eventually wore them down. That’s something we can do is eventually wear a team down, and they had just played a big Thursday night game. I think we took a little wind out of their sails when we made that run in the third quarter.”
Washington (11-4, 5-0 SEC) never allowed the Trojans to get any momentum back in the fourth quarter. Fairfield repeatedly sent the Demons to the free-throw line, but Washington went 15-for-22 at the stripe in the final eight minutes.
“The last two or three games we’ve stepped to the free-throw line late in the game and made a high percentage of our free throws,” Long said. “We don’t make them early in the game, but when it counts late in the game, we make them. That’s what champions do. As we close in on the conference championship and the postseason, it’s really happening at a good time.”
With the win, Washington improved to a perfect 5-0 in conference play. But early in the game, it appeared as if the Trojans might knock off a second SEC opponent in as many nights.
Washington jumped out to a quick 5-2 lead in the first minute of the game, but then didn’t score another field goal in the first quarter. Fairfield, which had defeated Keokuk 44-41 on Thursday night, led 8-6 at the end of the frame and built a 14-8 lead early in the second quarter.
But the Demons closed the half on a 10-4 run, and Giardino’s 15-footer with 16 seconds left in the second quarter sent the teams to the locker room tied at 18.
“It wasn’t a shock to us,” Flattery said. “We’re getting better. Some people think it’s a fluke, but our girls are getting better. It’s not a fluke. Of course we thought we should be tied, or in the lead, at halftime. That’s where we should have been. We just didn’t take care of business in the third quarter, and the girls weren’t happy with that.”
Greiner had a double-double of 15 points and 10 rebounds to lead Fairfield (6-8, 2-4 SEC), and Baumann finished with 14 points. But no other Trojan scored more than three.
Kimball, who went 7-for-10 from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter and 12-for-16 from the stripe in the game, finished with a game-high 17 points. Senior Beth Dillon added eight points and six rebounds, and Fishback had seven points and five boards.
Following the game, Long was honored for winning his 100th career game, which he picked up when his team won at Keokuk on Dec. 14. Long currently owns a career record of 105-68 as a head coach. He was also an assistant for the Washington teams that won three straight state championships at the turn of the century.
“That was completely off the charts,” said Long, who was surprised to be honored. “I kind of wanted to keep that somewhat quiet. And to have Mary Berdo and Steph Rich in the house, girls I’d coached since sixth grade in AAU, was an extra special treat for me.”