Fairbanks’ Wyatte Miller (3) is fouled going in for a shot Tuesday evening at Elgin High School. The Panthers rolled past the Comets, 45-23. (Journal-Tribune photo by Tim Miller)
With junior post player Braylon Green in better health, the Fairbanks High School boys basketball squad avenged an earlier season loss to Elgin on Tuesday.
Green wasn’t feeling the greatest nearly two months ago when the Panthers came back from Marion County with a 47-44 loss.
A clean bill of health can work wonders as Green and the Panthers destroyed the Comets, 45-23, during a Division III sectional opener.
Elgin took to its home court as the No. 11 seed, while FHS (12-11) carried the No. 14 ranking into the contest.
Defense set the tone during the opening quarter.
Both squads did a nice job of shutting down driving and passing lanes.
However, it was a pressing defense, something the Panthers haven’t done much this season, that gave the local team a huge boost.
“We saw last week how North Union’s 2-2-1 press rattled Elgin,” said Fairbanks head coach Justin George. “We’ve had our press in our back pocket all year, but just hadn’t had games when we could use it.”
The Panthers employed a 1-2-2 press during the first half that kept the Marion County squad from getting into any type of offensive flow.
In the terms of Fairbanks’ offense, it was mostly Green as he tallied each point during the opening quarter and finished with 11 during the first half.
He opened the contest with a spin move that resulted in a jumper and a 2-0 FHS lead.
The Comets took their first upper hand of the game at 4-2 on a pair of charity tosses by Ryan Sheridan.
Green took over during the next several minutes.
He drove to the bucket and drew several fouls.
Green swished four free throws to give the Panthers a 6-5 edge.
The 6-5 junior later grabbed an offensive rebound and scored, sending FHS into the second stanza with an 8-5 lead.
Elgin tallied baskets from Carter Sager and climbed to a 9-8 margin early in the ensuing quarter.
Green blew past a defender for a layup that returned a 10-9 edge to the visitors.
Justin Brown tripled in a long shot for the Comets.
That basket gave Elgin its final advantage of the night at 12-10.
Travis Brake came off Fairbanks’ bench and hit a jumper that deadlocked the contest at 12-all.
Sean Galsterer knocked down a three-pointer and Green tallied another free throw.
With two minutes remaining in the first half, the Panthers held a 16-12 lead.
The squads swapped turnovers and the Comets held the ball for a final shot.
That offering missed the mark and the Panthers carried their four-point margin into the turn.
The second half was much different as Fairbanks didn’t have to rely as much on Green’s offensive prowess.
As a matter of fact, he didn’t score a point during the third quarter.
That, however, didn’t prevent the Panthers from firmly establishing their dominance.
Galsterer sank an early basket, Wyatte Miller buried a three-ball and Gatlin Luke assisted on Galsterer’s transition bucket.
All of the sudden, the Panthers held a 24-12 advantage and were firmly in control.
“Things opened up offensively for several other guys during the second half,” said George. “We hit some three’s, got transition baskets off Elgin’s turnovers and found ways to drive to the basket.”
Luke scored along the baseline and Miller nudged the net with his second trifecta.
The Panthers held a 33-14 advantage with 1:37 left in the third set.
They were never seriously challenged the rest of the way by an Elgin team that had trouble both shooting and handling the ball.
Sheridan, who scored 27 against FHS during the earlier victory, was limited to five points.
“We knew we had to watch out for him,” said George.
Green and Trey Good scored a couple of baskets as Fairbanks’ margin climbed to 41-18 with slightly more than three minutes to play in the contest.
Galsterer and Brake also scored down the stretch as the Panthers coasted to the victory.
Fairbanks will once again see whether its road magic can work.
FHS will travel to No. 2 seed Worthington Christian for a sectional final game.
Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. on Friday.
Green 5-5-15, Galsterer 4-1-10, Miller 2-2-8, Good 3-0-6, Brake 2-0-4, Luke 1-0-2, Winkle 0-0-0, Schultz 0-0-0, Herbst 0-0-0, Higinbotham 0-0-0, Rausch 0-0-0. Totals 17-8-45.
Three-point goals: Miller 2, Galsterer 1.
C. Sager 2-1-6, Brown 2-0-6, Sheridan 1-3-5, Backensto 1-0-2, Rife 1-0-2, Dillon 1-0-2, Clark 0-0-0, H. Sager 0-0-0, Grim 0-0-0. Totals 8-4-23.
Three-point goals: Brown 2, C. Sager 1.
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