In overtime fashion, the Jeffs pulled out a 63-58 win over Wilber-Clatonia on Tuesday to put themselves in the subdistrict final against top-ranked Auburn.
The Jeffs had faced the Wolverines back in January, slipping away with a 39-36 score in their favor. Tuesday brought another close game, though a 4-point deficit for Fairbury at halftime developed into a 12-point gap by the beginning of the fourth quarter and at one point the Jeffs trailed by 14. A few key defensive stops and clutch three-pointers put the Jeffs back into the game, eventually forcing an overtime.
“It was crazy,” Zane Grizzle ’22 said. “I knew we were hot and Wilber hadn’t made a shot in a while, so I was really confident. I was ready to win. It all happened so fast.”
Fairbury’s offense put forth a noticeable effort; the Jeffs have scored more on only two other occasions this season — a 65-51 victory over Superior in the third game of the year and a 73-53 effort against Humboldt-Table Rock-Steinauer in January. Dylan Starr ’21 led the way with 22 points while Ethan Smith ’22 (16) and Grizzle (13) both reached double digits.
“I thought we just had to play our best that we ever have,” Starr said. “[I thought], ‘It could be our last one, so give it your all.’”
Fairbury’s opponent in the subdistrict final is one the team has not yet faced this season. The Auburn Bulldogs will be coming off a 74-26 victory over Syracuse that pushed them to their current 21-0 record on Tuesday. While the Jeffs have been using scouting reports to locate weaknesses in the Bulldogs’ game, some aspects of the plan are not as easily expressed on paper.
“Just go in there, play like it’s your last game because we have nothing to lose,” Starr said, explaining the general game plan. “Just play your heart out.”
The Jeffs will play the Bulldogs on Auburn’s home court for the subdistrict final at 6:00 tonight. The winner will move on to the district final game this Saturday.
Jacob Martin ’22 chases down a loose ball, looking to take it down to the other end in a breakaway. Martin has averaged a little over 1 steal per game this season. Photo by Lindsey Korthals
Joshua Robertson ’21 prepares to defend a Wolverine player off the dribble. As a team, the Jeffs are averaging 20+ rebounds per game, nearly 80% of which are on the defensive end. Photo by Lindsey Korthals
Ethan Smith ’22 closes out a Wilber-Clatonia player on the perimeter. To help overcome the 12-point deficit at the beginning of the fourth quarter, the Jeffs held the Wolverines to 4 points before heading to overtime. Photo by Lindsey Korthals