By John Bombatch
XENIA — Nobody asked the refs to check Xenia’s Rocky James to see whether his shoes had springs in them, but the Buccaneers excitable 6-foot-3 senior jumped his team out of the Blue Pit for an exciting 57-50 win over league foe Fairborn, Friday night.
James was solid in almost every facet of the game. He hauled in 11 rebounds, blocked at least one shot, deflected a few Skyhawks passes out of bounds, had a steal and led the Bucs with 22 points scored.
But it may have been his leaping ability in defending a pair of Fairborn inbounds passes that turned the tide Xenia’s way for good.
With Xenia out in front, 46-42, with 1:47 left to play, James leapt high to steal the inbounds pass from Fairborn’s Branden Lilley. Better yet, James had the foresight to grab the ball and deflect it off a Fairborn player to have the possession go Xenia’s way.
That heads-up play earned the Bucs a Samari Curtis free throw on their next possession to extend the lead to 47-42.
On Fairborn’s next possession, after a trio of Skyhawk passes had already been deflected out of bounds on successive plays, James again leaped high to tip yet another Lilley pass. This time, his deflection went to Xenia teammate Ryan Johnson for a steal.
Johnson was fouled (Fairborn’s 10th to set up a double bonus situation the rest of the way for Xenia), and he hit the second of two tries to extend the lead to 48-42.
“Rocky had a huge game for us. He had so many deflections there in the end, and he came up big for us by scoring 16 of his points in the first half when we needed somebody to step up. He was good on the boards, good defensively, good on the rim … he played a complete game tonight,” Xenia coach Kent Johnson said.
Danny Naylor then added an exclamation point to the Bucs defensive tenacity when he stole the ball on Fairborn’s next possession and finished the play with a jarring dunk, which drew cheers from Xenia fans and a lot of playful congratulatory shoving from his teammates, for a 50-42 lead.
“Those late turnovers really cost us,” Fairborn coach Nathan Chivington said. “To put an athlete like Rocky James on the inbounds pass … it’s hard to pass around a guy with the wingspan of a 747. Defensively, they did an outstanding job of capitalizing off of our turnovers.
“I thought (Jordan) Pumroy did an outstanding job for us. One of our goals was to limit our turnovers, and I thought we did a good job of that. They just came at the wrong time of the game for us, I think.”
Ray James (Xenia’s leading scorer with a 16.7 points per game average) finished with 14 points, and Curtis continued to have a solid freshman season with an 11-point effort.
Pumroy also finished with 22 points, to lead Fairborn in scoring. He’s Fairborn’s leading scorer and had averaged 18.2 points per contest prior to Friday night’s performance. Ryan Profitt scored most of his 10 points inside the paint, and Lilley finished with nine.
Both teams are back in action at 7:30 p.m. today, Jan. 23. Xenia will host Springfield Shawnee in the Blue Pit, while Fairborn will host Springfield Kenton Ridge at the Baker Memorial Fieldhouse.
John Bombatch can be reached at (937) 372-4444, Ext. 2123.