By SCOTT TYLER
H-P Sports Editor
LUFKIN — Fairfield girls’ head coach Tommy Fadal walked into the Lady Eagles’ lockerroom at halftime Monday night knowing it could have been worse than the eight-point deficit his team faced against Diboll.
Despite getting into the bonus in the first five minutes of the game and putting Diboll’s top scorer — Nikki Green — on the bench with three first-half fouls, Fairfield struggled to stop Diboll for the first 16 minutes.
That was when Fadal walked in at halftime and told his team to start playing aggressive — “start playing Fairfield basketball.”
The Lady Eagles did just that, blowing past Diboll in the second half to capture the Class 3A-Region III quarterfinal title, 76-67, at Angelina College.
“I told them we could have been down by more than just eight points,” Fadal said of his halftime speech. “I told our players to take it to them and we refocused and came out looking like a different team.”
With the comeback win, Fairfield (31-2) advances to the Class 3A-Region III semifinals, which will be played at 6:15 p.m. Friday at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville. The Lady Eagles will play the winner of tonight’s Hardin-Jefferson versus Brookhill Royal game.
Monday night, Diboll led by as many as 13 points in the first half despite Green, the 6-foot plus post player, being on the bench with foul trouble.
Even though Fairfield could not take advantage of the foul problems in the first half, it was a different story in the second half.
With Green starting the second half on the bench all she could do was watch as the Lady Eagles started the third quarter with a 9-0 run and Taylor Haynes’ layup gave Fairfield a 39-38 lead.
After the teams traded baskets, Choicetta McMillian put Fairfield ahead for good when she made a pair of free throws for a 43-42 lead.
McMillian was settling for three-point shots in the first half but after a talk with Fadal, she started going to the basket, where she either made the close-range shot or got fouled and went to the line.
McMillian finished with a game-high 26 points as she was 18-of-20 from the free-throw line. In contrast, Diboll only made 12 free throws as a team.
“I told Choicetta to go up there and lead the team,” Fadal said. “She got back into the flow of the game and when she settles down, it makes our team better.”
After McMillian’s free throws, Haynes had a driving layup and Denise Brown made a three pointer of the wing to give Fairfield a 50-44 lead.
Haynes had eight of her 15 points in the third quarter. The eight third-quarter points by Haynes was two more points than Diboll scored as a team in the quarter.
Brown’s three pointer started an 11-0 run for the Lady Eagles that ran into the fourth quarter. Sarah Linton hit a three pointer to begin the final quarter and Haynes and McMillian each made two free throws as Fairfield took its largest lead of the night at 58-44.
Behind Green, who only had four points heading into the fourth quarter, Diboll tried to get back into the game.
Green scored 19 points in the fourth quarter and the Lady Jacks got the deficit down to 67-60 with two minutes to play, but it would be the closest Diboll would get as the Lady Eagles put the game away from the free-throw line.
Fairfield made 18-of-22 free throws in the fourth quarter and was 34-of-46 from the free-throw line on the night.
“In a game like this, you always feel it is going to come down to free throws,” Fadal said. “We practice everyday on free throws and it paid off tonight.”
Notes: Fairfield had a late scare when with under a minute to play in the game, Haynes went up for a layup and as she was being fouled, she fell to the ground, holding her left knee. The Lady Eagle senior had to be helped off the court. ...Fairfield freshman Courtney Morton scored 13 points and had a team-high nine rebounds. ...Before Monday night, Diboll’s last loss also came to Fairfield in the championship game of the Fairfield Tournament in December. ...With Lufkin less than 12 miles from Diboll, Monday’s crowd was pro-Lumberjacks with over three-fourths of the crowd cheering for Diboll.
Scott Tyler may be contacted via e-mail at email@example.com
Fairfield 14 16 21 25 — 76
Diboll 20 18 6 23 — 67
FAIRFIELD (31-2) — Sarah Linton, 5; Kiresten Cox, 1; Choicetta McMillian, 26; Joye McElory, 8; Taylor Hanes, 15; Denise Brown, 8; Courtney Morton, 13.
DIBOLL (26-9) — Kayla Elizalde, 18; Ternisha Jackson, 6; Chelsea Burns, 8; Vanessa Jones; 12; Nikki Greene, 23.
3-Pointers — F: Linton, Brown; D: Greene.
By SCOTT TYLER
This Week's Circulars
Services for Edna Perkins, age 81, of Palestine, are pending at Rhone Funeral Home. Mrs. Perkins passed away on Monday, September 21, 2020, at Palestine Regional Medical Center. To leave online condolences, visit www.rhonefuneralhome.com.
Services for Ginny Crain Ferguson, age 67, of Slocum, are pending at Rhone Funeral Home. Mrs. Ferguson passed away on Sunday, September 20, 2020, in Tyler. To leave online condolences, visit www.rhonefuneralhome.com.
Services for Kelsey Margaret Copeland, age 24, of Palestine, are pending at Rhone Funeral Home. Ms. Copeland passed away on Wednesday, September 16, 2020. To leave online condolences, visit www.rhonefuneralhome.com.
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