Written by Scott Batts/Photography by Melissa Lee
Keeping the ball from their rival Palestine Wildcat team is Fairfield Eagle Jailyn Tatum.
The Fairfield Eagles took to the road twice and came away with a sweep of the week and the outright district 18-4A championship.
The Eagles travelled to Palestine to battle the winless Wildcats and took a 71-60 win. The game was close throughout and 42 fouls were called that interrupted the pace of the game as well.
Jailyn Tatum hit June Rischer with a pass deep into the post for the early lead on the games’ first possession. Akeem Jackson had a couple of offensive rebounds and scores and Tatum and E. J. Ransom scored three pointers and the Eagles had a slim 17-15 lead after one period.
Kolbe Branch hit one from long range to open the second period and Tatum and Ransom scored to give the Eagles a lead. The Wildcats missed their first nine shots from the field and only three in the period. Jase Oliver hid two of three free throws and the lead swelled to 32-25 at the half.
Palesine was able to close the gap in the third period with three three pointers. Fairfield scored a three by Jackson and Tatum and a couple of easy baskets by Ransom. The Wilcats shaved two off of the lead and the Eagles led 48-43 as the third period ended.
The fourth period began with a Tatum three pointer and a pair of transition scored by Ransom and Branch. The Eagles motion offense was too much for Palestine in the later minutes with two driving lay ups each by Kolby Adams and Tatum. The final score read an Eagle win 71-60.
Jackson scored 15 points and added nine rebounds and Tatum had 16 points and six assists.
The Madisonville Mustangs defeated the Mexia Blackcats 47-40 and the Eagle win and Mexia loss sealed a first place finish in the district race.
The district champions travelled to Madisonville for the second game of the week and a second long road trip. Tatum and Branch connected on threes in the first period and Madisonville hit three out of four midway through the frame and the teams were tied at 8-8 at the end of the first.
The Eagles had a 10-0 from the last seconds of the first period and most of the second. Rischer and Tatum added two scores each and Ransom added one as well to build a lead. Midway through the period, the Mustangs scored on three of four possession and the final shot of the half to again knot the score 20-20 at intermission.
Fairfield took off on a run that would hold up for most of the remainder of the game. Ransom scored and Branch hit a three pointer. Ransom followed with a score and a foul shot for a 10-0 throughout the third period. Madisonville missed all eight of their shots from the field and both free throw attempts. The Eagle lead grew to 30-20.
Madisonville hit their first three shots of the final period and had three three pointers to keep the game close. Tatum hit two baskets, including a nice running one hand shot from ten feet out and six out of eight free throws. He hit three out of four within 15 seconds of each other in the final minute. Ransom missed a pair with 14 seconds left. Deonte McAdams tried driving in for the tying shot but was called for travelling. The Mustangs had one final shot when Tatum was called for stepping out of bounds. Akeem Jackson reached in and stole the ball before a shot could be made. He passed to Tatum and he raced up the sideling as the final seconds ticked off for the 44-42 Fairfield win.
Mexia lost again on Friday to Athens 82-78 so the three playoff spots are all in question on the final night of the regular season. Only Palestine will not qualify for the postseason so the final seeding will be determined on Tuesday.
Fairfield will host the Athens Hornets on Tuesday night. Fairfield has clinched the district title and this is a huge seeding opportunity for the Hornets.
Adding to the Eagle score with his free throws is #23 Jaise Oliver of Fairfield.