Braylon Green (23) of Fairbanks skies in the air to block a Madison Plains shot Tuesday evening. The Panthers edged the Golden Eagles, 45-42. Also pictured for FHS are Sean Galsterer (4), Trey Good (14) and Wyatt Miller (3). (Journal-Tribune photo by Tim Miller)
Fairbanks High School boys basketball coach Justin George made perhaps the biggest understatement of the 2019-20 season after Tuesday evening’s 45-42 victory over Madison Plains.
“Free throws saved us tonight,” said the coach as he gazed down at the scorebook.
A more true statement could not have been made as the Panthers hit 13-of-19 from the free throw line, as compared to the Golden Eagles’ seven-for-10 effort.
Free throw shooting is critical in any tight ball game and the charity tosses made by senior Wyatte Miller down the stretch proved to indeed save FHS from a setback.
The Panthers (6-5 overall and 6-1 in the Ohio Heritage Conference) held a 37-26 lead within the first two minutes of the fourth quarter.
That margin, however, was not safe as Plain’s Matt Johnson kept the visitors well within striking distance with his outside shooting antics.
The Panthers needed a number of clutch charity tosses within the final minutes to seal the victory.
For the most part, the contest was a tight battle as FHS held a 12-11 edge after the opening period and a 21-17 margin at halftime.
The Panthers maintained the lead during the first half by playing with patience against the Golden Eagles’ zone defense.
“We took our time against their zone and got some key baskets,” said George.
Although Fairbanks grabbed its biggest lead of the game after the intermission, George wasn’t as pleased with the offense.
“There were times during the second half that Madison Plains made us go a little faster than we wanted,” he said. “This (contests in the 40s) is the type of game we have to play this year.
“We don’t gave a lot of guys who can score between 15 and 20 points on any given night like we’ve had the past couple of years.
“We have to slow it down, be patient and get the baskets we can.”
Sean Galsterer opened the contest with a three-pointer for Fairbanks, but the Eagles easily responded.
Johnson swished a long three-ball for a 10-7 Plains lead.
Gatlin Luke, however, returned a 12-11 margin to the Panthers when he dialed in a three-point shot that carried the home team into the second period.
Another three-pointer from Galsterer gave FHS a 15-13 lead.
“Sean hit some key shots for us tonight,” said George.
Wesley Stires sank a pair of jumpers with less than a minute left in the half.
In doing so, he returned a 17-16 lead to the visitors from Madison County.
Braylon Green’s jumper gave FHS an 18-17 lead.
Galsterer then drilled another three-ball that sent the Panthers into the turn with their 21-17 lead.
A pull-up jumper along the baseline by Braylon Green and a free throw from Owen Herbst gave Fairbanks a bit of breathing room at 24-17 in the third quarter.
Paul Bryant’s traditional three-point play closed the gap for the Eagles before buckets by Green and Luke pushed Fairbanks out to a 28-20 advantage.
Andy Garmen and Bryant scored again to trim Madison Plains’ deficit to 28-24 with 1:38 on the timer.
Green connected on a pair of charity tosses and then scored on a three-point play that lifted FHS to a 33-24 margin.
Johnson sank a pair of free throws that pulled the Eagles to within 35-26 by the end of the third set.
The Panthers took their largest margin of the night at 37-26 when Owen Herbst cashed in on two free throws.
Johnson put the Eagles on his back and did enough scoring damage to draw Madison Plains to within 40-37 with a little more than a minute to play.
The Panthers began working the clock.
They forced the Eagles to eventually put the home squad in the double bonus.
Miller canned four consecutive free throws to pad FHS’ lead at 44-39 with 24.9 ticks on the clock.
Johnson again played hero as his next three-ball pulled the Eagles to within 44-42 with 17.7 seconds to play.
Miller was sent to the line with a pair of free throws. He made one to give FHS the slightest bit of breathing room at 45-42.
The Eagles missed a three-point attempt, but ran down the long offensive rebound.
Both teams eventually burned what timeouts they had left during a late-game coaching “chess match.”
Madison Plains inbounded the ball with 1.5 seconds to play.
The Eagles, though, could not get off a shot before the final buzzer.
Breen 8-3-19, Galsterer 3-0-9, Herbst 1-4-6, Miller 0-5-5, Luke 2-0-5, Good 0-1-1, Winkle 0-0-0, Schultz 0-0-0, Brake 0-0-0. Totals 14-13-45.
Three-point goals: Galsterer 3, Luke 1.
Johnson 6-4-20, Garmen 3-2-8, Stives 3-0-7, Bryant 3-1-7, Ernst 0-0-0, Williams 0-0-0. Totals 15-7-42.
Three-point goals: Johnson 4, Stives 1.
The Panther jayvees won the preliminary game in overtime, 39-33.
Alex Crowe led the Jr. Panthers with 13 points, while Cade Ziegler and Andy Higinbotham each tallied 10.
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