XENIA — When asked whether he’d grown some gray hairs after his Xenia Buccaneers survived a Fairborn rally on Friday night, Xenia coach Kent Anderson shook his head and laughed.
“I probably grew some gray ones, and lost some other ones,” he said.
Anderson’s Bucs built a 14-point first-half lead only to see Fairborn claw its way back to within one point late in Friday’s Jan. 10 contest at Xenia High. Xenia connected on seven of eight free throw attempts in the closing two minutes to earn a 63-57 win.
“We were good in the fourth quarter on our free throws at 10-of-14, and Shawn (Thigpen) did a nice job in stepping up for us tonight. We needed every bit of it,” Anderson said.
Xenia (3-9 overall, and 2-7 in the Miami Valley League’s Valley division) once led 22-8 midway through the second quarter, but then Tyren Schultz’s 3-pointer from the right side sparked a 10-4 Fairborn run to pull the Skyhawks within 26-19 at the half.
Fairborn (1-10, 1-8 MVL Valley) trailed by seven points after three quarters of play, then a Dwight Lewis 3-pointer with 2:09 left in the game pulled the ‘Hawks to within a point, at 55-56.
Free throw scores from the Bucs Dylan Hoosier (2-for-2) and Thigpen (5-for-6) in the game’s final 1:43 allowed Xenia to hang on for its third win of the season.
“The way things have been going for us this year, we’ll take every win we can possibly get,” Anderson said. “This is always a big game with a lot of emotion, but we had some kids really step up tonight.”
Despite being smothered by a solid defensive effort from Fairborn freshman Caelan Bush, Xenia’s Hoosier finished with 19 points. Freshman Thigpen scored 13 of his 15 points in the second half, and junior Isaiah Hoyt was the other Buccaneer to finish in double-figure scoring with 10.
For Fairborn, Lewis led all scorers with 23 points, including five threes. Fellow junior Blake Huffman finished with 11, and a trio of threes.
In all, Fairborn hit 11 3-pointers while Xenia hit one.
“I just finished telling the kids in the lockerroom, we just can’t afford to keep going down by big digits, then try and come back on teams like that. It takes a lot out of a team when you have to do that,” Fairborn coach Billy Harchick said. “The team played hard. As a team, we got better. The guys were listening and they bought into what we were telling them to do during the game.
“Going forward, we played as a team and everybody did a good job for us tonight. … This is definitely something that we can build on for the second half of the season.”
As Harchick mentioned, the teams reached the midway point in the Miami Valley League schedule with Friday’s contest. Now the teams will go back through the league and play each other a second time.
Fairborn will head north for a 7:30 p.m. contest on Tuesday, Jan. 14 for its next game, against Sidney.
Xenia stays at home for its next game. The Bucs will host West Carrollton at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday.