If the Fairview boys basketball team was still searching for an official welcome to the Great Lakes Conference, it received one from visiting Elyria Catholic last Friday.
The Panthers entered the Warriors’ gym as the defending conference champions and looked the part as they jumped out to an early double-digit lead and ended the first quarter up 18-10.
But the Warriors, a veteran team hungry for a challenge, got back to its pace-and-space style. The teams traded leads all evening, but the Warriors used three big runs and a strong closing sequence to pull out an 86-79 win.
It was Fairview’s (6-1, 4-0 GLC) sixth win in a row.
“I’m happy for the win, any way we could’ve got it,” Warriors senior guard Martin Lowry said. “It’s a big win for us.”
The Warriors stormed out of the gate in the second quarter, using a blistering 10-0 run to take a 20-18 lead. They went up 28-24 before the Panthers (4-2, 2-2 GLC) used an 11-2 stretch to take the lead back, 35-30 and go into halftime up 35-34.
The Panthers maintained their slim lead in the third quarter until Warriors senior Luke Howes was fouled on a shot attempt that led to a technical being issued to Panthers forward Jared Frantz, who argued he had a clean block. Howes made four consecutive free throws to put his team ahead 54-52 with 2:06 left in the third. The Warriors got the ball back due to the technical, and junior guard Ethan McQuate drilled a three from the left corner to make it 57-52.
“The game was like a boxing match, moves and counter moves,” Panthers coach Rob Palmer said. “The technical swung the game on a pendulum. … That was a seven-point swing, and a nine-point difference in less than 20 seconds. It didn’t win or lose the game for us, but that’s what changed the dynamic.”
A Howes pull-up three at the buzzer capped a 15-5 run that changed the course of the game. The Warriors led 62-58 heading into the fourth.
“I know what we’re capable of,” Warriors coach Ryan Barry said. “It’s an experienced group. They’ve been there and done that. When it gets tight down the stretch, they’re going to come out on top more times than not.”
A 9-0 Fairview run midway through the fourth, aided by a pair of Panther turnovers that led to transition buckets, put the hosts up 76-66 with 2:35 to play. While Panther shots stopped falling down the stretch, Warrior free throws went in — they made 9 of 11 attempts — and they were able to close out the win.
“You can be a three-quarter team and play great basketball, but if you don’t close down the fourth quarter you’re not going to win games,” Howes said. “That’s one of our biggest things we focus on — taking great care of the ball down the stretch and playing good defense to close things out.”
Howes scored 16 of his game-high 32 points in the second half and also finished with five rebounds and five steals. Lowry scored 20 points (11 in the second half) to go with five assists and four steals. Senior forward Noah Mesaros scored 15.
Along with the team’s ability to move the ball and play fast, second-half defense made a big difference. The Warriors forced eight of the Panthers’ 13 turnovers in final two frames.
Edward Wright came off the Panther bench to score a team-high 22 points, along with eight rebounds. Six-foot-seven center Branson Taylor was a load to handle all evening with 17 points and nine boards.
Fairview is in the midst of a weeklong break, and will return to competition Friday at 5:15 p.m. against Kenston at Garfield Heights.
For questions about this story, call 440-871-5797.