Boys Basketball

Fairfield defense a tone setter as it eyes Division I regional semifinal bout against familiar foe Princeton

FAIRFIELD — Ray Coney took Monday’s practice session with the same intensified approach as any other. 

The Fairfield High School senior guard said things naturally have that type of feel when there’s preparation left to do for another game this late in the tournament. 

After all, the Indians have been in the position once before. 

“We’ve had so many good practices,” Coney said. “When you’ve got a lot of young guys who have joy for the game, and won’t take it so seriously, they make you want to keep playing harder and better. 

“We know what we need to do to get ready for this one.” 

The Indians (22-4) face off against Princeton — for a third time this season — in a Division I regional semifinal at 8 p.m. on Wednesday night at Xavier University’s Cintas Center. 

Fairfield is on a seven-game winning streak, while Princeton (19-7) has won seven out of its last eight, with the loss coming against the Indians during that span — a 66-43 regular season finale at Princeton on Feb. 10. Fairfield also beat Princeton in their first meeting, 68-57, back on Dec. 9 at Fairfield Arena.  

“Going into every game like this, it’s win or go home,” senior Aamir Rogers said. “We’re still thinking about it being serious. But for us seniors — me, Ray and (Deshawne) Crim — we’ve seen this. We’ve been here. We gotta go into it thinking that if we lose, we’re going home. We can’t get ahead of ourselves.” 

Indians coach DJ Wyrick said the offense has stayed the course, and that’s credited to a smothering defense — which continues to overwhelm each one of Fairfield’s postseason opponents. 

The Indians have won by at least 18 points in their four tournament victories. 

“I just think our defensive intensity has been terrific,” said Wyrick, who is in his fourth season at the helm. “We finally had a game where everyone was clicking. Everybody was playing together, and everybody understood their role. Everybody played within themselves.” 

And everybody on Fairfield’s roster got to experience action on UD Arena’s floor in Saturday’s 76-51 district final victory over Wayne. 

“I couldn’t tell you that anyone had an off night,” Wyrick said. “You can say that all 15 of our guys played in a district final game. And to be fair, 10 of our guys are in our rotation — which is different from last year.”  

Crim was two points shy from his career high of 33 against the Warriors, Rogers pulled down a game-high nine rebounds in a foul-stricken 16 minutes of playing time and Coney picked four steals that led to buckets. 

“Our defense has stepped it up and has pushed us,” Coney said. “We get those steals and run in transition and get those buckets, it really sets it off for us.” 

Centerville and Elder tip off at 6 p.m. on Wednesday at the Cintas Center in the other regional semifinal contest. The regional final is set for 5 p.m. Saturday. 

Fairfield lost to Centerville in the regional final last season. 

“There’s nothing but positive energy going into this next game. We’ve already played Princeton twice,” Rogers said. “But we can’t get ahead of ourselves. We can’t go in looking for a quick win. We know we have to play our way and play defense like we did on Saturday.” 

“They are a different team — a very different team than what we saw the first two games,” Wyrick said of Princeton. “We’ve got to make sure that our guys are ready for them a third time.” 

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