CENTERVILLE — Less than two minutes into the game, the third-leading scorer in Class 3A was forced to take a seat on the bench.
Max Weaton watched his Fairfield teammates pick up the slack. Nine different Trojan players would score in a 52-28 non-conference road win at Centerville, Fairfield's second straight win after a 1-5 start to the season.
"I think at one point Evan (Haines), Ryan (Higgins) and myself on the bench in the first half. J.J. (Lane) was already out injured, so that was four of our regular starters that were out of the game," Weaton said. "We had four guys come in off the bench and we still built a 13-4 lead after one quarter. That's a credit to those guys. It shows how well Coach (Mick) Flattery has prepared all of us. It's always a next-man-up mentality and these guys all stepped up for us."
While Weaton watched on after picking up his second foul less than two minutes into the game, Tate Allen took command on the floor. The junior guard scored six of Fairfield's first eight points before finding Ethan Hunger for a baseline jumper at the buzzer, giving the Trojans a nine-point lead heading into the second quarter.
"You hate to see Max go out that early because he's such a big part of our team," Allen said. "It's just a matter of everyone stepping up. It's knowing that you can't rely on Max when he's not in the game. It's about finding different ways to score. I took that as an opportunity to score more and giving the guys a chance to rally behind one of our best players going out of the game."
Weaton would come back in the second quarter, making up for lost time by scoring six straight points opening a 19-4 lead over the Big Reds. Despite dealing with foul trouble throughout the night, Weaton would finish with a game-high 16 points including eight in the second quarter giving the Trojans a 24-8 halftime lead.
"You know, for the most part, that guys like Max, Tate and J.J. are going to get their points," Flattery said. "What stood out to me were the unsung heroes with the guys that are normally scoring two, three or four points stepping up to score four, five or six points. The boys did a great job in that regard.
"With Max and J.J. out, you're talking about 34 or 35 points sitting on the bench. Tate did a great job running things quarterbacking things so well like he did for the football team."
Allen finished with 12 points and three assists. Besides nine different players scoring for the Trojans, eight different players had at least one assist in a total team effort.
"Joey Valdez, Ethan, Sam Weaton all came into the game and did a great job for us," Flattery said. "Hunter (Cecchini) and Ryan did a great job inside really well. Holding these guys to just 28 on their home court is pretty good.
"I was really tickled coming out of the holiday break. You don't know how the kids are going to come out of it. I told my wife on (Sunday) night that, after the energy we had in practice, we might get by 50. I've done this too long to know better. The boys were ready for a game and they proved it."
Ryan Sinnott led Centerville (1-9) with a double-double, blocking three of Weaton's shots while adding 14 points and 13 rebounds. While the Big Reds return to South Central Conference play Friday at home against Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont, Fairfield (3-5) faces fifth-ranked (3A) Washington in Southeast Conference action looking to continue to build on the momentum gained from Monday's win.
"We've got a chance to get right back over .500 by next week. That's what I believe and I told the guys that in the locker room after the game," Weaton said. "The energy seems to be a lot higher. We're playing for something a lot bigger now. We're starting to realize that we can play with any team and beat those tough teams on our schedule."
"We're a dangerous team. We've got all the confidence in the world," Allen added. "We're ready to go get them. We're ready to take down the top dog in the conference. We're not scared one bit."