Feb. 2—FAIRFIELD — If the Albia girls basketball team can put some points on the scoreboard next Saturday at Mid-Prairie, a postseason upset could be in the cards.
The Lady Dees closed out the regular season on Thursday with a 33-20 win at Pleasantville, the lowest number of points surrendered by Albia in a single game this season. Albia enters the postseason having won three of their past four games, allowing less than 50 points to their last five opponents including just 44 points allowed to 14th-ranked (3A) Chariton and 42 points apiece to Fairfield and Knoxville on consecutive nights to begin the final week of the regular season.
"I think our girls are getting more comfortable in the pressures we put on. It's really helped us set our tempo," Albia head girls basketball coach Katy Dykes said. "I thought we were more aggressive. I thought we did a better job (in the second half) coming out as the aggressors, which is what we talked about in the locker room."
Olivia Sheffield has provided the Lady Dees a late-season offensive spark, reaching double figures twice to help Albia top the 50-point mark in consecutive games for the first time this season. After scoring 13 points in a 54-39 South Central Conference win over Davis County three nights earlier, Sheffield sank five 3-pointers to account for a team-leading 15 points Monday as Albia spoiled Fairfield's Senior Night with a 57-42 win at Dan Breen Gymnasium.
"I used to really get in my head about shooting the ball and I used to take myself out of the game," Sheffield said. "Now, I'm just letting it fly. I take a deep breath and don't think about it. Once I get one shot to fall, I know that I've got this for the rest of the game."
Savannah Hollander, who along with Briana Steele was honored following Monday's game against Albia, was held to just 10 points by the Lady Dees. Hollander scored eight of those 10 points in the first half including a drive to the basket for a go-ahead basket late in the second quarter lifting Fairfield to a 26-24 halftime lead.
"This is one of the most emotional nights I've been a part of. It just reminds me that I'm not going to be playing basketball again after this season," Hollander said. "It made it more sentimental to be out there playing with my best friends."
Albia and Fairfield battled back and forth through the first three quarters on Monday, exchanging six lead chances and four ties through the first 24 minutes. The Lady Dees put the game out of reach in the fourth quarter, allowing just two field goals and six points to the Trojans with six points by Aliyah Hood helping Albia close out the game on a 13-3 run.
"Scoring over 50 points in consecutive games is huge for us," Dykes said. "We've been able to kick up an extra notch offensively and find some more confidence. That's what will win big games. We can stop teams from scoring, but at the end of the day we'll need to put the ball in the basket if we're going to beat those teams."
Emma Metcalf led Fairfield with 11 points in Monday's loss. Faith Jones matched Hollander with 10 points, sinking a pair of 3-pointers in the contest.
The tough times continued on Tuesday at home for Fairfield, dropping another tough Southeast Conference decision to Mount Pleasant. Juliana Burns scored 23 points while hauling in nine rebounds for the Panthers in a 56-54 win over the Trojans, the second close win of the season over Fairfield after a 51-50 buzzer-beating overtime win at Mount Pleasant on Jan. 5 that started Fairfield's seven-game losing streak.
"Nobody wants to be on a losing team, but I've talked with both Savannah and Briana about leaving their legacies," Fairfield head girls basketball coach Rebecca Becker said. "We're hoping to continue to build this program up. Every success we have going forward starts with Ashlyn Lisk last year and these two seniors this year leaving their legacies of hard work and teamwork. They show that in practice. They show that in games. We're hoping to end the season on positive note for these two seniors."
Albia will head into postseason play with a record of 7-11, heading to Wellman to face Mid-Prairie in the Class 3A, Region 5 quarterfinals on Feb. 10. Fairfield (2-15, 0-10 Southeast) wraps up the regular season next weeks with trips to West Burlington and Knoxville before heading to Solon to open Class 3A postseason play for the second straight year.
— Scott Jackson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter@CourierScott.