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Dragons roll to D3 district title

ATHENS — Many coaches will tell you that their best offense is defense.
That was certainly the case for the Fairland Dragons who used half court defensive pressure to force 13 South Point turnovers en route to a convincing 69-48 win to claim the Division III District Championship at the Ohio University’s Convocation Center Saturday night.
“Defensively, we wanted to focus on stopping the dribble-drive, giving a lot of focus on Fox and Adams and sitting down and guarding” Fairland coach Nathan Speed said.
“At the same time, force some tempo and keep it going up and down and not have (South Point) to have a chance to set up and slow the game down. Overall, an excellent game defensively.”
Both teams got off to a slow start over the first four minutes of the game with the scored tied 4-4, but Fairland closed the first quarter on a 10-0 run to lead 14-6 after the first period.
The Dragons extended the lead to 18-6 just over two minutes into the second quarter until Tayshaun Fox ended the drought with a foul-line jumper followed by a layin off an offensive rebound by Logan Wade to make the score 18-8 with 5:35 to go in the first half.
But, just as they have done in their previous tournament games, Fairland ratcheted up the defense leading to multiple layups by Gunner Short, and closed the first half on a 14-4 run to lead the Pointers 32-12 at halftime.
Short scored 10 points on 5-7 shooting in the second quarter and a game-high 17 points to lead the Dragons.
“I thought (Gunner Short) had a great game tonight. He puts so much energy defensively, sitting down and guarding Adams all night trying to limit his touches and staying between him and the basket” Speed said.
“Offensively, Gunner creates mismatches because he’s so quick, can post-up and shoot. You can put him anywhere on the floor, give him the ball and he can attack and have a chance to score.”
South Point (16-10) would try to claw their way back in early in the third with Elijah Adams scoring seven and Jared Whitt adding six, but the Dragons would answer with Ty Staten and Keedrick Cunningham pacing the Dragons to keep the lead at 47-27 after three quarters.
Fairland (23-1) and South Point traded baskets, and the Pointers were able to cut the lead to 60-41 on a Whitt three with 2:38 to go in the fourth, but the Dragons would answer with a Kollin Van Horn dunk to put the lead back to 21. Whitt, Adams and Fox would each add three’s, but each South Point basket was answered with a Fairland score with the final basket coming with :10 to go from a Matt Mondiak layup to set the final score at 69-48. Whitt and Adams each had 15 for the Pointers.
“Having that experience here, and going out the way we did last year and having that bad taste in our mouth has been there all year, so we wanted to make sure we took care of business today” said Speed.
Fairland moves on to Wednesday’s Division III regional semi-final where they will take on Sugarcreek Garaway at 6:15 p.m. on Wednesday at Ohio University.
The second game has Berlin Hiland playing Southeastern who upset Oak Hill 35-31.
The regional championship game is 7 p.m. on Saturday.
“We have got to get used to the short turnaround now. We’ve had a week to prepare up to this point, and now we have a quick turnaround. Now we have to get back and get prepared, but I think having played them before this season will help a little bit from a personnel standpoint” Speed said.
“Garaway has a great program. They are always up here and battling to go to state. It will be a tough matchup for us. The have a solid post player and a couple guards who are quick and can score. We have to stay focused and continue to play well.”
South Point 6 6 15 21 = 48
Fairland 14 18 15 22 = 69
SOUTH POINT (16-10): Max Tabor 0 0 0-0 0, Douglas Shaffer 1 0 0-0 2, Jared Whitt 4 2 1-3 15, Tayshaun Fox 4 1 2-4 13, Elijah Adams 7 0 1-2 15, Cody Runyon 0 0 0-0 0, Cade Brandt 0 0 1-2 1, Dustin McCarty 0 0 0-0 0, Markus Malone 0 0 0-0 0, Caleb Eplion 0 0 0-0 0, Jonathon Henline 0 0 0-0 0, Logan Wade 1 0 0-0 2. 3-point goals: 3-17. Steals: 3. Turnovers: 13. Totals: 17 3 5-11 48. Fouls: 14, Fouled out: None.

FAIRLAND (23-1): Isaiah Howell 4 0 5-6 13, Ty Staten 4 0 0-0 8, Luke Thomas 3 1 0-0 9, Chase Fisher 0 0 0-0 0, Joel Lambiotte 1 0 0-0 2, Kollin Van Horn 2 0 5-6 9, Matt Mondlak 1 0 0-0 2, Austin Gartin 0 0 0-0 0, Keedrick Cunningham 3 1 2-3 9, Reilly Sowards 0 0 0-0 0, Ian Chinn 0 0 0-0 0, Andy Lange 0 0 0-0 0, Gunner Short 7 0 3-5 17. Totals: 25 2 13-19 69. 3-point goals: 2-7. Steals: 7. Turnovers: 5. Fouls: 13. Fouled out: None.