VANDALIA — With the game on the line, Malik Jacobs drove to the basket, drew the foul, and scored to give the Fairborn Skyhawks a come-from-behind 56-53 win over Beavercreek, Wednesday night at the Butler High School Student Activities Center.
In an up and down game that saw third-seeded Beavercreek leading by 10 points at halftime, no. 8-seeded Fairborn (17-7) had to outscore the Beavers 18-8 in order to tie things up after three quarters of play. The Skyhawks then needed some clutch free throws from a freshman, and solid play from their two leading senior scorers, to earn themselves a trip to the Division I district semifinals.
“It just came down to the final possession, as we were going back and forth late in the game. Being down 10 really showed some character in our guys. To be able to step up and come back the way we did, we wanted to put the ball in one of our senior’s hands, and give them an opportunity to keep the season going,” said Fairborn coach Nathan Chivington. “Malik stepped up big to knock down the last shot of the game, and also doing it with contact. I complimented him and told him ‘Way to keep the season going.’ “
Still grinning from ear-to-ear, Malik said it was his first last-second shot of his career.
“It feels good to be able to do this for the team,” he said.”When I saw it rolling around on the rim, I was telling myself ‘get on down!’”
Scouts from Defiance College and Ohio Northern University were seen talking with Jacobs after the game. Jacobs remains uncommitted as of Wednesday.
Beavercreek coach John Ahrns said he knew the ball was going to either Jacobs or Fairborn’s leading scorer, Jordan Michael, on Fairborn’s last possession.
“We knew it was going to one of the two of them. We stood right in front of (Jacobs) to try and get the charge, but we didn’t get the call. That’s just a bad break. But we knew pretty much what they were going to do,” Ahrns said.
After a Beavercreek senior missed both free-throw attempts with 59.2 seconds left in the game, Fairborn freshman Branden Lilley was fouled on the Skyhawks’ next possession. He went to the foul line with 21.5 seconds left to play, and hit the first of two free throws.
Then Ahrns called a timeout to try and ice the freshman. It didn’t work.
Lilley swished the second free throw to give Fairborn a 53-51 lead. Lilley admitted to being plenty nervous, but said Jordan Pumroy helped to lighten the mood.
“I was really nervous … Then Jordan came over and said to me, ‘Hey, you wanna hang out together after the game? Maybe play some video games?’ Like we always do. That really helped me a lot,” Lilley said.
On the next Beavers possession, Beavercreek’s Jarred Watters banked in a shot from the right baseline to knot things up at 53-all with 10 seconds left to play. After a quick timeout, Fairborn was ready to stage its game-winning drive.
“It was a fight, but our bond together as a team is pretty good. At halftime, coach got us together, and it was fun to come back like that as a team,” Pumroy said.
Fairborn’s Big Two — Jacobs and Michael — each finished with 17 points, Lilley added eight while Pumroy and Ryan Profitt both finished with seven in the win.
Ahrns said he’d seen 11 Fairborn games this season and that was probably the best he’d seen Profitt play all season long.
Jarred Waters led Beavercreek (14-9) with 17 points scored, Tyler Reasoner finished with 11, Zach Rower finished with nine, and fellow seniors Alec Stein, Airius Moore, Michael Carroll and Austin Johnson combined for the team’s other 16 points. Tristen Lyle was the only non-senior on the Beavers’ roster.
Ahrns had announced earlier this season he would retire after his final game, but that was the least of his concerns after Wednesday’s loss.
“I’ve been to Beavercreek for 16 years as a coach, and then some years as a player here, and there’s never been a group that worked harder than these guys,” he said. “It hurts me in knowing that this is the final game for them. I could care less for me. I’m the only one who is leaving by choice … I’m 37 years old, I’ll be fine. But I hurt that they hurt.”
Fairborn will now advance to play no. 7 seed New Carlisle Tecumseh, which is scheduled for an 8:30 p.m. start, Friday night at UD Arena in Dayton.
“That’s now 10 straight wins for us. We’ve got the momentum now,” Chivington said. “They have a lot of seniors, and I feel bad for them. But this was our night.”