CENTERVILLE — The Xenia Buccaneers won the rubber match against Fairborn Feb. 28 and with it earned a trip to a Division-I boys basketball sectional final.
Sophomore Samari Curtis scored a game-high 25 points and senior Kobe Hughlett added 13 as Xenia won, 64-59, and advanced to play top-seeded Springfield Friday, March 3 with a trip to the district final at stake. Each team won fairly easily on its home court during the regular season, and the neutral-court game at Centerville proved to be the best of the three despite the teams combining for 41 turnovers.
The teams were tied 13-all after one, Fairborn led 27-24 at halftime, and Xenia led 37-36 after three.
“I just think we gutted one out and found a win to win a ballgame,” an elated Coach Kent Anderson said. “The ultimate goal is to survive and advance.”
After a quiet first half, Curtis scored 12 points in the fourth quarter as the Buccaneers (17-6) erased a five-point Fairborn lead with a 10-0 run midway through to give eighth-seeded Xenia a lead it would never lose again. Every team sixth-seeded Fairborn (13-11) got close, Xenia answered.
Curtis and Hughlett combined to make 8 of 10 free throws in the final two minutes to help clinch the game.
“For a team that hadn’t been good at the free throw line … definitely clutch,” Anderson said.
Branden Lilley (19 points) and Brandon Easterling (18) were clutch for the Skyhawks, but too many miscues after halftime cost Fairborn.
“You have to go back to the third quarter,” Fairborn coach Nathan Chivington said. “As a team we got away from some of the things we do and do well. Xenia capitalized on our mistakes.”
Fairborn managed just nine points in the third quarter and turned the ball over 10 times after a Lilley three-pointer gave Fairborn a 30-24 lead a couple minutes in.
Xenia scored seven straight to take a 31-30 lead with 4:11 left, but Jacob Webb made a three-point play after a rebound to regain the lead for Fairborn. Omar Inman scored inside to give Fairborn a 35-31 lead with 1:30 left, but Ricky Williams and Meechi Harris came up with back-to-back steals, the latter ending with a one-handed dunk, to tied it at 35-all.
Lilley made one free throw before Curtis made a bucket with two seconds left giving Xenia the lead after three.
Lilley and Xenia’s Brandon Love traded three-pointers to open the fourth and then Easterling scored on a rebound to give Fairborn a 41-40 lead with 6:58 left. Lilley drained a three-pointer seconds later and following a Harris basket, a three-point play by Easterling gave Fairborn a 47-42 lead with 4:46 left.
Then Curtis took over.
“These kids have a fierce will to win,” Anderson said. “I don’t know where it comes from sometimes. They’ve just come together at the right time.”
With the loss, the high school careers for Inman, Easterling, Lilley, Webb, and Brockton Batie come to an end.
“It’s been a great ride with them,” Chivington said.
Contact Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.