By ROGER THOMAS
---- — FAIRFIELD – It might be early in the season, but Tuesday's boys’ basketball match-up featured two unbeaten teams when Albia (2-0) traveled to Fairfield (2-0) to take on the Trojans.
It took until the final seconds to determine which one would remain undefeated.
Albia trailed 58-56 with just under two seconds to play. A broken play almost forced overtime, but a Blue Demon pass missed its target and the Trojans escaped with a 3-0 record.
Fairfield’s game high scorer, Federico Ferretti (18 points), hit a three to open the scoring. The Trojans led 5-2 before Albia’s Matt Baker embarked on his big night scoring.
Baker would score five-straight points, including a drive that he turned into a three-point play with just five seconds left in the quarter to pull Albia within 9-7. Ferretti took the inbounds pass and dribbled the length of the floor to make the score 11-7 after one.
“That was a disappointing possession for our defense,” said Albia coach Kevin Archer.
Both teams picked up the scoring in the second, but the 19-15 Trojan advantage in the period allowed them to hold a 30-22 lead at the intermission.
Two baskets and a free throw to start the second by Landon Gamrath upped Fairfield’s lead to 16-7. The Trojan post player would have 15 for the game.
Ferretti scored a basket to give the Trojans a 20-11 lead with just over three minutes gone in the second quarter. Baker would hit a 3-pointer for Albia, but the Trojans scored six straight at the charity stripe to go up 26-14.
Baker and Ferretti would each score four more as the second quarter wound down, with the Trojans still holding a 30-18 lead. Mason Cox would have back-to-back baskets for Albia to close out the scoring for the half.
“We did a pretty good job of getting to the rim in the first half, but we spent a lot of the half not figuring out what we could or needed to do on offense,” said Archer.
Both teams had to deal with the officiating crew that got warmed up in the girls' game and continued to be questionable throughout the nightcap. Sometimes it's not how many fouls that are called, but how critical those fouls are.
Zach Hugen picked up two quick fouls in the first few minutes and had to sit out the remainder of the half for the Blue Demons.
Baker's 12 points at the half, a successful game for some players, was only a third of his entire 36-point production for Albia.
“You just can’t simulate their team speed in practice,” said Fairfield coach Tyler Miklo. “We just wanted anybody close to help get the ball out of his hands.”
The third quarter belonged to the Blue Demons. A defensive change helped them to an 18-8 advantage and a 40-38 lead after three.
Ferretti, who had 15 first half points for the Trojans in the opening half, was the focus of the defensive change.
“It’s great to be a part of this team. The guys have been really good helping me get involved,” said Ferretti. “I think that I’m a shooter, but I can also drive to score.”
“We didn't do anything special with the zone we played, but we made it a point to know where he (Ferretti) was,” said Archer. “It definitely helped us get back into the game.”
Tanner Wynn scored and Baker followed with two baskets to open the third, pulling the Blue Demons within 30-28. Gamrath scored for Fairfield, but Hugen answered with a 3-pointer and the Trojan lead was at one.
Matt Carr, who went scoreless for the Trojans in the opening half, started to have an impact on the game. He and Baker traded 3’s and Fairfield led 35-34. Baker’s next 3-pointer gave Albia the lead at 37-36. The Blue Demons closed out the third with the two-point lead.
Carr hit his second 3-pointer for a 41-40 Trojan lead less than a minute into the final eight minutes of play. Baker answered with a three and Albia led again. Gamrath scored to tie it but again Baker answered with a trey of his own.
Carr’s 3-pointer tied it at 46 near the midpoint of the fourth. Gamrath’s final basket of the game gave the Trojans a 50-49 lead. Baker's drive for a three-point play gave Albia a 52-50 lead with just over two minutes to play.
Jordan Reid came off the bench hit a big three for a 53-52 Fairfield lead. Ferretti scored and the Trojan lead was at three with less than two minutes to play. Baker scored to cut the lead to one, but the Blue Demons committed two turnovers in the next minute with the second being one of those scary charge-block calls on Baker.
Carr’s final two points came at the foul line. With 17 seconds left, he hit two free throws to put the Trojans up 57-54.
“I spent most of the first half trying to guard Baker. He can do it all and is really tough. I just tried to use my long arms to check him on the perimeter,” said Carr. “As far as late in the game shooting goes, I just try and always have a clear mind and never worry about previous shots.”
Baker would get points 35 and 36 at the foul line with just seven seconds left. Ferretti hit one of two from the line with four seconds left and Fairfield led 58-56. Albia had the ball at half-court with just less than two seconds left, but Baker was denied the ball and the Blue Demons couldn’t come up with the tying basket.
“I thought we needed to play like we had the whole game at the end,” said Archer.
“It was a good win to get. I think our guys really showed some resiliency having to come back from the damage their zone did to us,” said Fairfield coach Tyler Miklo. “Being 3-0 really makes it easier to go back to practice.”
FAIRFIELD 58, ALBIA 56
ALB 7 15 18 16 – 56
FF 11 19 8 20 – 58
Albia (56) – Matt Baker 36, Luke Sarver 2, Tanner Wynn 5, Blake Bayer 4, Zach Hugen 3, Mason Cox 6. Totals 20-55 10-14 56.
3-point goals – 6-22 (Baker 5, Hugen). Fouled out – none. Rebounds – 24 (Dalton Peterson 6). Assists – 5 (Wynn 2). Steals – 9 (Baker 2, L. Sarver 2, Wynn 2, Cox 2). Blocks – none. Total fouls – 22. Turnovers – 13.
Fairfield (58) – Matt Carr 12, Federico Ferretti 18, Vince Horras 4, Landon Gamrath 15, Jordan Reid 3, Jordan Whitney 2, Alex Crile 4. Totals 20-44 13-17 58.
3-point goals – 5-17 (Carr 3, Reid, Ferretti). Fouled out – Gamrath. Rebounds – 29 (Ferretti 7, Gamrath 7). Assists – 13 (Joe Hietpas 6). Steals – 5 (Ferretti 2, Whitney 2). Blocks – 3 (Ferretti, Cameron Baumann, Gamrath). Total fouls – 19. Turnovers – 20.