THORNVILLE – There was a postseason feel surrounding the clash between Sheridan and Fairfield Union on Friday night.
Both entered with perfect records and put on a show many expected in a packed Glen Hursey Gymnasium.
The host Generals overcame a double-digit, first-half deficit and controlled much of the second half.
However, the Falcons delivered in the clutch — highlighted by Huston Harrah’s go-head 3 from the corner with 8.1 seconds left — and walked away with a 52-48 victory.
Fairfield Union moved to 7-0, while Sheridan dropped to 8-1.
“Coaches work in X’s and O’s and try to put together the perfect picture, but sometimes, it’s about the players making plays,” Fairfield Union coach Alex Eversole said. “Huston put the work in this summer and takes extra shots at practice. Those things had him ready for that moment.”
It looked like the Falcons wouldn’t need those heroics early. They led by as many as 11 in the first half due to an efficient 12-of-22 showing from the field. It included a 5-of-8 effort behind the arc, as well as just one turnover, as Fairfield Union led 31-25 at the half.
Sheridan displayed the defensive tenacity which had allowed the Generals to win their first eight games. Fairfield Union had four turnovers in their first 10 possessions of the third quarter and made only 1 of 7 attempts against a mix of man defense and 1-2-2 and 3-2 zones.
“We knew they were a good defensive team, and they would make it difficult,” Eversole said. “We didn’t get sped up and stayed patience (in the first half). In the third quarter, they really started eating up that space. We weren’t getting the clean looks we did in the first half.”
Fairfield Union’s Ryan Magill puts up a a shot against a Sheridan defender on Friday night. The Falcons won 52-48.Buy Photo
Fairfield Union’s Ryan Magill puts up a a shot against a Sheridan defender on Friday night. The Falcons won 52-48. (Photo: Brandon Hannahs/Times Recorder)
That stretch allowed the Sheridan offense to find its footing. Ethan Malone opened the third with a pair of scores, while Luken Hill found Logan Ranft for a bucket down low and Nate Johnson had five points, including a crucial 3, to build a 39-33 lead.
The Generals held a 14-6 scoring edge in the frame and were up 39-37 entering the fourth after a late 3 from Ryan Magill got the Falcons within a possession.
The teams then exchanged the lead seven times in the fourth, including when Sheridan went up 47-46 after a Shay Taylor putback with 2:50 remaining.
After the Falcons’ Charlie Bean missed a layup, Hill split a pair of free throws to put Sheridan ahead 48-46 at the 1:46 mark of the fourth.
Sam Bernard split a pair of free throws on the Falcons’ ensuing possession then the Generals failed to capitalize on multiple opportunities. Landen Russell missed the front end of a 1-and-1, and Sheridan failed to convert a pair of offensive rebounds.
That opened the door for Harrah’s heroics, while Hill’s last-second layup for the Generals caromed off the backboard and fell off the front lip of the rim.
Sheridan coach Doug Fisher was pleased with the look Hill got, but felt his team had other opportunities to walk away victorious.
“We weren’t getting stops in the first half, and we talked about that at halftime,” Fisher said. “We battled back and came out strong in the third. We got into the passing lanes and forced some steals. Those led to points in transition.
“We had chances late and didn’t capitalize,” he added. “This game is always physical, as well as fun and competitive. Nobody likes to lose, but we can gain some positives from this. We have to make the commitment to continue to get better.”
This game was also a good barometer for the Falcons, noted Eversole.
“Sheridan is a well-coached team and does a good job of checking out,” he said. “We need to improve our rebounding and continue to get better at taking care of the ball.”
Malone finished with 12 points, Hill and Russell added 10 apiece and Nate Johnson scored eight for the Generals, who were 19 of 37 from the field with nine turnovers. They also held a 20-16 edge on the glass.
Magill and Chase Poston finished with 15 points apiece, and Harrah added 11 to lead Fairfield Union, which finished 18-of-40 shooting.
Sheridan reserves won 45-38, as Kyle Peters had 15 points for the winners.
Brandon Hannahs is a reporter for the Zanesville Times Recorder and Coshocton Tribune. He can be reached at 740-450-6763, firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter, @brandonhannahs.