WASHINGTON — The Southeast Conference opener for the girls basketball teams from Fairfield and Washington featured a team that knows how to win and a team that is trying to figure it out.
Fairfield has won the league title outright two of the last three years, tying Keokuk last season. The winning way kicked in during the fourth quarter for a 61-48 victory.
Destiny Gridley got the Trojans going with eight of her 13 total points in the first quarter, including a triple at the buzzer. She also had 10 rebounds in the game.
“The idea is to score more before the buzzer,” Gridley said. “In our warm-ups, I was really working on my 3-point shot just because in our first game of the season I was not making that shot. It is something that I have worked on a lot so it felt good to finally hit them in the game.” She was 3 of 7 from behind the arc.
Fairfield led 15-9 after the first quarter and had a 20-12 lead when the Demons went on a 9-0 run for their first lead of the game.
The Demons had a great second stanza for the second consecutive game.
“Whatever we had in the second quarter, we needed to bottle it up for all four quarters,” Washington coach Shannon Rugg said. “That is the team that’s the defending conference champion and they know how to win. We are still trying to figure that part out, but we are getting a lot closer.”
Fairfield led 24-23 at the half and 40-39 at the end of three quarters.
“I have to give a lot of credit to Washington’s defense because they came out hard on us,” Gridley said. “We weren’t really expecting it, but I thought we responded well as a team finally. That gave us confidence going forward. It is easy to get down on yourself when a team comes back on you so I was proud of us of the way we stepped up. We are really excited about getting a conference road win.”
Kellie Dallmeyer’s basket gave the Demons a 41-40 lead but Delany Breen canned a 3-pointer for Fairfield that was answered by Anna Nacos’ trey and Washington’s last lead of the game at 44-43. Nacos had eight points, all in the second half.
Fairfield’s press produced a 48-44 lead but Addison Six got Washington within two before Olivia Pacha, who scored 10 points, fouled out.
“Having Olivia would’ve made a difference but, hey, that is part of the game,” Rugg said. “The team has to learn to play with some adversity and we are still trying to figure that part out.”
Two Nacos free throws made the score 51-48 with under 3 minutes to go. Shaylin Drish went 5 of 6 on free throws to salt the game away. The Southeast Conference co-Player of the Year last season was held scoreless until a conventional three-point play halfway through the third quarter. She finished with 11 points and four assists.
“We didn’t have the focus that we needed. I thought it showed,” Fairfield coach Jeff Miller said. “We had to up our intensity. I have to give Washington credit because they got some shots and they got some rebounds. In the end, our girls stepped up and did what they needed to do to get the win. It was hard fought, it really was. Our press made a difference but just a little bit, not near as much as we hoped. They did a good job breaking it a few times. We don’t have a lot of size like we saw from Washington. We’ll have to use what we have and that is our quickness. I’ll tell you what, this game certainly could’ve gone either way. This was a great road victory for us.”
Danielle Breen scored 12 points, snagged six rebounds and had three assists for the Trojans. She hit a buzzer-beater for three at the end of the half.
“To hold Drish scoreless for more than a half tells us something about our defense,” Rugg said. “Yes, it was great man-to-man defense, but we don’t want moral victories. We gave them a great run. We are getting better. Fairfield-Washington is a great rivalry. We are trying to get where they are. They just made a couple more plays than us down the stretch. We are taking steps forward, that is for sure.”
Kelly Dallmeyer, who scored 10 points, made a big difference for the Demons. “She is so versatile that she can play all five spots for us,” Rugg said. “She is a glue player for us. Anna did a great job at point guard.”
Washington is 1-2, 0-1 and plays at Centerville today.
Fairfield is 2-0 and hosts Ottumwa Tuesday.