HARRISBURG — A tall and talented Fairfield team made quick work of Harrisburg, 74-36, in the Class 2A Harrisburg regional. Fairfield advances to the championship game, facing the winner of Wednesday’s Eldorado-Carmi-White County contest.
The Mules got off to a quick start, running to a 6-0 lead behind three buckets from 6-foot-6 senior Brian Estes. The final bucket was an impressive alley oop dunk off a perfect feed from Jayzale O’Neal.
“We made it a point of establishing an inside game,” said Fairfield coach Scott McElravy. “We knew we had them a little bit with height and athleticism. I thought Brian came in and did a wonderful job.”
By the end of the first quarter Fairfield had established a 16-7 lead, an advantage that grew to 36-19 at intermission.
“We were a little out-matched in every facet of the game tonight,” said Harrisburg coach Randy Smithpeters. “We didn’t get off to the start we wanted to get off to, which we knew we had to do. We couldn’t get out of it because we knew we couldn’t get back in it.
“We have a young team and we’ve gotten better this year. I think last night’s game showed that better.”
Any hopes Harrisburg had of keeping the game close vanished in the middle of the third quarter when the Mules went on a 16-0 run.
The streak began modestly with a Wyatt Gilbert free throw. Five different Fairfield players scored on that run. There was a 3-pointer by Kane Hixenbaugh, a couple of driving layups by Cody Cantrell, a couple of runouts by O’Neal and Hixenbaugh and a strong insdie move by O’Neal.
By the time the run ended Fairfield had a commanding 52-21 lead.
“We like to get up and down the floor, we like to pressure whether it’s a man press or a zone press,” McElravy said. “We’re deep. My starters were bartering with me to get back in the game in the fourth quarter, but there was no way we were going to do that.
“The flip side of that, we have guys sitting the bench for us this year that could definitely start.”
Fairfield took a 61-23 lead into the fourth quarter, triggering the running clock. The victory was the 30th of the season for the Mules.
“Twenty-seven was the school record, so we’ve blown by that,” McElravy said. “We knew we were going to have kind of a special team this year. To say out of the gate 30 …”
Fairfield put three players in double figures. Estes led the way with 15 while Hixenbaugh scored a dozen and O’Neal finished with 10.
Darion Barners had 10, the only Harrisburg player to finish in double figures.