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PREP BOYS BASKETBALL: Frey fires dagger, awards Fairfield its first regional title since 2007

Mar. 9—BOURBON — For anyone wondering how many emotions run through a high school basketball player's head after making the game-winning bucket for his team in the postseason, Fairfield senior Tyson Frey found the answer.

"There was a lot," said Frey, eyes wide open, arms draped around Fairfield's second-ever regional trophy following the senior's left-hand drive to the rim, then fading away and releasing a shot that bounced in to give the Falcons a 41-39 lead with two seconds remaining in Saturday's Regional 9 nightcap at Triton High School.

"It was wild, we got through it like every team does," Frey continued after taking a deep breath. "We knew there was going to be rollercoasters in this game. I don't even know what to think right now."

Third-year head coach Derek Hinen threw his arms up in elation when he watched Hammond Bishop Noll's late heave misfire. For the first time since 2007, and the second time in school history, Fairfield was once again regional champs.

Frey was just one of many popular people on the court after fans, parents and more stormed the floor following the trophy presentation. He was still savoring the moment.

"It comes down to just teammates having faith in each other," Frey said on what kept the Falcons together in the battlefield-like chaos the second half brought. "All I can say is give thanks to the Lord in this moment. We praise him through everything and I think that's the biggest success. I can't be in a better place right now."

Don't let the final two-point edge trick you, Fairfield's impressive first half wasn't nearly as close.

The Falcons used soft touches to help sink shots at the rim and their defensive dominance put the clamps on Bishop Noll — a team that entered averaging over 62 points a game.

Fairfield's defense, ranked No. 12 in the state at allowing just over 41 points a game, was the true winner of the first quarter. At the end of one, it was Falcons 15, Warriors 6.

Efficient and in control on both ends was Hinen's squad. It took just 10 minutes Saturday for seven different Falcons to score while Noll rushed the ball in after Fairfield baskets, helping the Falcons press secure another takeaway. With just two first-half turnovers, a 12-of-20 shooting mark from the floor and five players with four or more points, Fairfield's 26-11 lead was equally shocking as was exciting for a packed crowd clad in blue and gold.

"You're not going to hold them down for long, but holding them to 11 points in the first half is unbelievable," Hinen said of his team's defensive effort in the first 16 minutes of play.

Like Frey precluded, the rollercoasters were on their way.

Outscoring Fairfield 28-15 in the second half, Bishop Noll began it's quest for a wild comeback. Bringing out a full-court press and changing between a 2-3 zone and man defense to begin the third quarter, the Warriors amped up the aggression.

Fairfield began making mistakes, turning the ball over and coming up empty on long offensive possessions. Fouls too hurt the team with sharp shooters Carson Smith and Mitchell Miller picking up their third fouls as the third quarter clock expired. The Falcons would enter the final quarter leading 36-27 but the drama was well on its way.

Picking up their fourth fouls less than a minute from each other, Smith and Miller were in danger of losing their team a valuable piece on both ends. Then, like a hammer, Smith fell hard to the ground after a collision on a defensive possession. Having to be helped up and avoiding any pressure on his left leg, the senior remained sidelined.

A minute later, Miller fouled out, leaving Fairfield without two starters as the group hung on to a 39-32 lead.

"Not just two starters but [Bishop Noll] is pressuring all over the place and those are probably our two best drivers," Hinen said about the losses to both Smith and Mitchell. "So it's like we don't have guys that can just rip through and go, we don't have a pleathora of them, so we mixed up our offense a little bit."

The change didn't help too much. Transition layups and drives kept the Warriors foot on the gas. Soon, the game was tied for the first time at 39-all with 1:30 to play. Timeouts ensued until Frey was given the chance to slam the door on Noll's comeback.

Driving with his left hand, Frey reached with his right, released the ball as he faded away from the hoop and watched as his dagger sunk through the nylon. His head coach was understandably impressed.

"We wanted to hold for one and we usually try to get it to one guy, give him space and just let him go and it was just a really good move by Tyson," Hinen said. "Left handed... very impressive."

Fairfield was led in scoring by Frey's 10 points followed by Smith (7), Miller (6), Brandt Garber (6), Brooks Custer (6), Noah Mast (4) and Alex Hofer (2). The Falcons were 18-of-32 from the floor and 3-of-7 from past the arc.

Bishop Noll scoring ran as Caleb Parks (15 points), Jaedin Reyna (7), Amauri Moore (5), Angel Alvarez (5), DeMarcius Royster (5) and Khalel Johnson (2). The Warriors were 14-of-32 from the floor and were 1-of-8 from beyond the arc. Noll was 10-of-21 from the free throw line compared to Fairfield's 2-of-2 mark.

Frey spoke about the mentality in the Falcons huddles during the second half as it felt like Fairfield was fingers away from losing grip and falling from the cliff.

"Just staying composed mainly," Frey said. "Staying composed and being one and not being a rollercoaster. Not being up and down is the main thing."

"It comes down to just teammates having faith in each other. Carson going down, it obviously stinks, but we came back to the same mentality all year and it took everything we had."

The team made sure to move the trophy celebration to the sideline to join Smith who sported crutches. For all the gifts the first half gave, the adversity the Falcons experienced in the second half was at the highest level. They bent, but never broke.

"Another couple minutes and who knows," Hinen said. "They're just bigger, faster, stronger. I mean, they went straight man-to-man and we just handled it just enough. We gave them some easy stuff. When we were able to play a halfcourt game it wasn't too bad. This is just survive. That's what it's about is finding some way to win and it definitely wasn't pretty in the second half but we just found a way to win."

The Falcons (20-6) will head to the Berry Bowl in Logansport for the semistate portion of the postseason. They'll face Delta (22-6) in the 12 p.m. game. The winner will play either Peru (16-10) or South Bend St. Joseph (18-9) at 8 p.m.

PREP BOYS BASKETBALL

IHSAA 3A Regional 9 at Triton High School

Fairfield 15 11 10 5 — 41

Hammond Bishop Noll 6 5 16 12 — 39

Reach Matt Lucas at 574-533-2151, ext. 240325, or at matt.lucas@goshennews.com.