By Ryan Kaczmarski
The Fairview Warriors boys basketball team played one of the best fourth quarters in recent memory.
The Warriors came back from a 23-point, third-quarter deficit to pull within four with 20.3 seconds left in the game, but the visiting Wellington Dukes held on for the 69-62 victory.
“We try not to worry about the scoreboard,” Fairview head coach Pete Maienknecht said. “Our emphasis every day in practice is just trying to focus on the little efforts to try to improve and when we cross over into a game, we’re always thinking one possession at a time.
“Let me and the coaching staff worry about the scoreboard,” he added. “We just told them, ‘Forget about what the scoreboard said, dig in, win every possession and that will help us scrap and claw our way back into this ballgame.’”
Wellington (10-2, 8-1 in the Patriot Athletic Conference) jumped out to a 9-2 lead to start the game and pulled away to an 18-9 lead to end the first quarter. In the second quarter, the Dukes extended their lead to 11 points going into halftime.
Wellington pulled away even more in the third quarter, going up by 23 points on a 3-pointer by senior guard Nathan Starkey – one of the Dukes’ nine 3-point shots of the night.
Things started clicking for the Warriors (6-7, 4-6 in the PAC) after that shot, when junior guard John Miles hit a couple of jumpers to make the score 54-32 in Wellington’s favor going into the fourth quarter.
In the final act of the game, the Warriors started frustrating the Dukes with a pressure defense, and they also started attacking the hoop and making free throws – something they failed to do earlier in the game, only going to the charity stripe once in the first three quarters – and pulled within four before committing two fouls, giving Wellington three more points, to end the game.
“The biggest thing that I was pleased with was the effort the kids showed on the floor tonight,” Maienknecht said. “To go out there in the fourth quarter against a very good high school basketball team and to battle, scrap and claw, we found our way back into it.
“In the first half, I thought we forced some things and we settled for what might have been OK shots, but they weren’t the shots we wanted,” he added. “I felt we needed to show a little more patience at the offensive end. You’re disappointed that you didn’t come out on top, but progress was made (tonight).”
Fairview junior guard John Miles – the Warriors’ all-time 3-point scoring leader – led all scoring with 22 points, including two huge threes and knocking down six free throws in the fourth quarter.
“He’s (Miles) been a little inconsistent this season, but he’s getting his rhythm back,” Maienknecht said. “John is one of our go-to guys, and we want him looking to score.”
Miles missed the entire preseason because of an emergency appendectomy.
“He was late getting into the groove of things,” Maienknecht added. “Every night now, John is going up against the other team’s best perimeter defender.
“He’s a gym rat and loves the game of basketball.”
The other scoring leaders for the Warriors were senior forward Rory Juhn with 11 points and senior guard Cole Ziegler with nine.
The scoring leaders for the Dukes were seniors Brady Shaw with 20 points and Jason Perry with 14.
This is the first year the Warriors are playing in the PAC, and the level of competition is on par with that of any other league in the area.
“This notion that PAC basketball is not comparable to other conferences is absurd,” Maienknecht said. “The most fun thing (about the PAC) that I’ve seen so far is that on any given night, anyone can beat anyone.”
Fairview will host rival Lutheran West Friday night at 7:30.