Redettes hold off Fairfield

Centerville senior Mickey Stephens (14) battles Fairfield senior Delaney Breen for possession of the basketball on Monday night at Lakeview Gymnasium in Centerville during high school girls basketball action.

CENTERVILLE — It wasn't a conference championship clincher or an upset against a ranked opponent.

Nic Belloma, however, had high praise for the 48-40 win the Centerville girls basketball team earned on Monday night against the Fairfield Trojans. Mickey Stephens scored a game-high 17 points, six assists and four steals while going 7-8 from the free throw line in the second half to help the Redettes improve to 8-1 on the season.

"I'm almost more proud of this win than any win we've had all season," Belloma said. "It didn't come easy. We had to work for it. We had to fight through some adversity. We weren't knocking as many shots down as we normally make and we still found a way to come out of it with a win."

Fairfield could not overcome a scoring drought that lasted over seven minutes. The Trojans missed 15 consecutive shots from the field, allowing Centerville to pull away from Fairfield with a 14-2 run in the second half.

"We had (Rachel) George in foul trouble and we had the game tied up heading into the second half, but we just didn't shoot the ball very well," Fairfield head girls basketball coach Pat Pacha said. "I don't think (Centerville) did anything to us defensively. I think we were tentative at times. We had some really good looks. We got the ball inside like we needed to. We just didn't finish."

Fairfield (4-4) continued to fight back throughout the night despite playing short-handed. Several players were battling COVID-19 and were unable to make the trip to Appanoose County.

"I think we just ran out of gas at the end. When you're only playing with seven or eight kids, it kept us from being able to press like I would have like to," Pacha said. "It could have gotten away from us, especially going into the fourth quarter after scoring just two points in the third, but the girls battled back.

"I kept telling the girls that the shots would fall. They fell a couple times. They just didn't fall enough."

Fairfield faced seven-point deficits three separate times in the first half, tying the game at 19-19 on a 3-point play by Danielle Breen in the final minute of the second quarter. Delaney Breen answered Abby Drew's drive to the basket with one of her own for the Trojans, tying the score at 21-21 in the opening minute of the third quarter.

That would be Fairfield's last points until a jumper by Danielle Breen with 6:52 left, cutting Centerville's lead to 32-23. Allison Casteel answered with a 3-pointer for Centerville, opening a 35-23 lead with 5:48 left.

"I didn't think we played very well in the first half. We missed five lay-ups in the first quarter," Belloma said. "I told the girls at halftime that we were still in it even though we didn't play very well. The third quarter was the huge swing for us. We locked up (Fairfield) defensively and didn't give up as many offensive rebounds."

The Redettes also had several players step up at key moments. Breckyn Carney scored on a putback with four minutes left to put Centerville up 39-28, a putback that proved to be very big after Brynley Allison and Delaney Breen sank 3-pointers in the final three minutes to pull Fairfield back within 39-34.

The Trojans had a couple chances to get within one possession in the final two minutes. Danielle Breen's missed a pass to Savannah Hollander on the first possession with Centerville leading 39-34 before missing a 3-pointer with 1:17 left after a free throw by Rachel George, who dove to the floor to collect a defensive rebound before ultimately finding Abby Drew for a press-breaking lay-up to help clinch the Redette win.

"If you'd have told me at the beginning of the night that Rachel would score just four points and we'd come out with the win, I'd have called you crazy," Belloma said. "Abby and Allison really stepped up to hit big shots. Teams are going work to take Rachel away as an option. We just have to know how to work off that.

"It was just a good, workman-like win."

Danielle Breen led the Trojans with 11 points, three steals and two blocks on the night. Kelsey Pacha added 12 rebounds.

Both Fairfield and Centerville will return to conference play. Fairfield will face Washington on Friday in Southeast Conference action while Centerville will host Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont in an important South Central Conference clash.

— Scott Jackson can be reached at sjackson@ottumwacourier.com. Follow him on Twitter@CourierScott.

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