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Riley’s defensive effort helps Dragons beat Warren to reach district finals

Fairland Dragons’ Eric Riley (20) is fouled by Warren’s Evan French (25) as he attempts to score during second quarter action. The Dragons won 59-50. (The Ironton Tribune / Kent Sanborn of Southern Ohio Sports Photos)


Tribune Sports Editor


ATHENS — Fairland’s Eric Riley scored just two points, but that’s normal for him.

Warren’s Evan French did not score, and that is totally abnormal for him.

Riley turned in yet another strong defensive effort as he held French scoreless to help the Dragons beat the Warren Warriors 59-50 on Thursday in the Division II district semifinals.

French came into the game averaging 15.5 points a game to lead the Warriors, but he took just one shot — a 3-point attempt in the third quarter — and fouled out with 6:56 to play.

Fairland coach Nathan Speed said Riley has been an unsung hero all season.

“That goes so unnoticed and it’s a shame because if you like watching basketball, you’ll love watching him play,” Speed said. “It’s a thing of joy because he shuts down leading scorers.”

Blaine Fuller’s scoring and the defensive play of Evan Maddox sparked the Dragons early.

Fuller had 21 points to lead Fairland while Maddox finished with 18 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists and 7 pivotal steals.

“(Fuller’s) stronger than what you think. We’ve tried to get him all year to consistently attack the basket,” said Speed.

“(Maddox) is a warrior. You just have to let him play. He’s going to have some turnovers. People forget he’s a sophomore. The effort the kid gives in games like this is unmatched.”

Austin Henthorn scored 18 points off the bench to lead Warren (19-3).

Fairland (17-5) will play Waverly in the district finals are at 8:15 p.m. on Friday, March 9, at Ohio University. Waverly beat Fairfield Union 51-48 in the second game.

“We’re senior-led and those guys don’t want to lose. They were going to do whatever it took to get the win. (Fuller’s) effort and intensity were amazing tonight,” said Speed.

Maddox had three steals in the first quarter and scored twice himself while Fuller drove for three layups and Fairland took an 18-9 lead.

Despite leading scorer and rebounder Evan Salyers on the bench for more than a quarter due to foul trouble, Fairland opened up a 22-12 lead on a layup by Maddox with 5:28 left in the half.

“We knew we had to come in and jump out early. When they went to a zone we were able to spread them out and attack and make them come out and guard us,” said Speed.

The Warriors managed to get within 26-24 at the half when Henthorn converted a 3-point play with 26 seconds on the clock. The Dragons helped the Warriors’ comeback as they missed all five free throw attempts in the quarter.

For the game, the Dragons were just 17 of 34 but did convert 12 of 20 in the fourth quarter.

Warren took the lead on a 3-pointer by Tyler Ward to start the second half and led 33-27 on back-to-back trifectas by Jeremy Hastie with 4:10 left in the third quarter.

But a triple by Maddox at the 2:53 mark gave Fairland the lead for good at 35-33. Salyers’ layup just before the end of the quarter made it 41-37.

A steal by Ward and layup by Reece Patton closed the gap to 50-48 with 2:36 left, but Warren was forced to foul and the Dragons made 9 of 14 free throws over the final 1:33 to prevent any comeback by the Warriors.

Fairland 18 8 15 18 = 59

Warren 9 15 13 13 = 50

FAIRLAND (17-5): Eric Riley 1 0 0-2 2, Evan Maddox 5 1 5-8 18, Blaine Fuller 8 0 5-10 21, Nathan Campbell 0 1 0-2 3, Evan Salyers 4 0 3-5 11, Cody Midkiff 0 0 4-6 4, Ryan Wooten 0 0 0-0 0, Alec Warner 0 0 0-0 0. Totals: 20-44 17-34 59. 3-point goals: 2-7. Rebounds: 14-24=38 (Maddox 8, Salyers 7, Riley 7). Team rebounds: 7. Assists: 7 (Maddox 3). Steals: 12 (Maddox 7, Fuller 4). Turnovers: 18. Fouls: 18. Fouled out: None.

VINCENT WARREN (19-3): Tyler Ward 0 2 0-0 6, Jeremy Hastie 0 3 0-0 9, Josh Windland 3 0 2-4 8, Evan French 0 0 0-0 0, Jace Knost 1 0 2-2 4, Austin Henthorn 6 0 6-8 18, Reece Patton 2 0 1-2 5, Danny Pannell 0 0 0-0 0, Evan Yabs 0 0 0-0 0. Totals: 17-51 11-16 50. 3-point goals: 5-18. Rebounds: 13-19-32 (Knost 7, Patton 6, Windland 5). Team rebounds: 3. Assists: 8 (Ward 3, Henthorn 2). Steals: 5 (Windland 2, Knost 2). Turnovers: 18. Fouls: 25. Fouled out: French (4th 6:56), Windland (4th 4:59), Hastie (4th 0:17), Henthorn (4th 0:09).