FAIRFIELD — The Keokuk High School girls basketball team made nine more free throws than Fairfield, so that was statistically one of the biggest differences in the game.
The Chiefs, however, were just stronger in every area.
MacKenzie Northup scored a game-high 27 points, and the Chiefs will take the Southeast Conference lead into the holiday break after a 60-47 win over the Trojans Thursday.
“We just didn’t fight back when we needed to. We waited too long,” Fairfield coach Brian Witzenburg said. “A lot of this game came down to want, especially on 50-50 balls that went their way. Keokuk just wanted it a little more tonight.”
The Chiefs (5-4, 4-0 SEC) trailed early, but once they took the lead on a transition layup by Michenna Davis, they were able to physically assert themselves at both ends of the floor. Keokuk made it difficult for the Trojans (5-4, 2-1) to go inside consistently, and when the outside shots were open, they didn’t fall consistently.
Northup, who played the last three years at Central Lee, was a handful from the start. She was able to penetrate the lane for layups, but also knocked down three 3-pointers. Oh, and she made all 10 of her free throws.
“She did a great job attacking,” Witzenburg said. “We didn’t want to give up the attack, but we just needed someone to step up there, and we didn’t do that.”
Keokuk led 29-22 at halftime, and extended the lead to 12 after three quarters as the Trojans couldn’t make the Chiefs pay for mistakes. Fairfield made just one basket in the third quarter, while the rest of their points came at the free-throw line.
“It really kind of came down to a free-throw contest, and we had our opportunities,” Witzenburg said. “They just shot better. We’ve got to be better at the line.”
The Chiefs led by as many as 17 in the fourth quarter, but the Trojans couldn’t hit the big shot to seize momentum.
Destiny Gridley and Shaylin Drish each scored 12 points to lead Fairfield, while Malory Jones added 10.
Davis had 14 to add to the strong night in Keokuk’s backcourt.
As tough of a loss as this was, Witzenburg is confident his team will bounce back, even if it has to think about a loss for a bit.
“We’re going to turn the page as fast as we can,” he said. “We’re going to take the break to get rejuvenated and let this one simmer for a bit.
“But we have to figure out who we are,” he said. “We don’t know what our identity is yet, and we have to find it. It’s going to take a little longer than I hoped, but I know we’re going to find it. By February, hopefully we’re there.”
The Trojans visit Fort Madison Jan. 4 to start the new year.
MacKenzie Northup 7 10-10 27, Michenna Davis 3 7-12 14, Abigail Wolter 2 3-3 7, Keleigh Hall 1 4-4 7, Cassidy Koeber 2 1-3 5, Lindsey Campbell 0 0-0 0, Abby Arrowood 0 0-0 0, Miracle Ailes 0 0-2 0. Totals 15 25-34 60.
Ashley Bloomquist 1 2-2 5, Shaylin Drish 3 5-10 12, Malory Jones 4 2-4 10, Kara Jeffrey 1 4-4 6, Destiny Gridley 4 3-6 12, Darby Kaska 0 0-0 0, Jillian Dunlap 0 0-0 0, Danielle Breen 1 0-0 2. Totals 14 16-26 47.
Score by quarters
Keokuk . 15 . 14 . 13 . 18 — 60
Fairfield . 9 . 13 . 8 . 17 — 47
Fouls: Keokuk 20, Fairfield 23. Fouled out: Northup, Gridley. 3-point goals: Northup 3, Davis, Hall; Bloomquist, Drish, Gridley.
Records: Fairfield 5-4 (2-1).
Chad Drury can be reached at email@example.com, and on Twitter @ChadDrury.