CINCINNATI — There wasn’t an ounce of hesitation. Regardless of the directive, Michael Lewis put up a 3-pointer with the game tied at 43 and a minute remaining.
And the Fairfield High School sophomore drained it.
Lewis gave the Indians the lead for good, and Fairfield got double-figure scoring from its three go-to seniors on the way to a 51-45 Division I regional semifinal victory over Princeton on Wednesday night at Xavier University’s Cintas Center.
“Coach told me not to shoot the ball,” said Lewis, who finished with six points. “But I had confidence, and I just shot the ball. I knew it was going in. Everybody knew it was going in. I shot it. I made it, and it was all hype.”
Deshawne Crim (15 points), Ray Coney (14 points) and Aamir Rogers (12 points, 11 rebounds) led the way for the Indians, who advance to their second straight regional final. They’ll face top-ranked Centerville on Saturday at 5 p.m. at Xavier for a shot at the state tournament.
Fairfield, which now owns an eight-game winning streak, was knocked out by Centerville in the regional final a year ago. Centerville beat Elder 54-47 on Wednesday in the other regional semifinal.
“Our goal was to get back to this game, and we did,” Indians coach DJ Wyrick said. “We’re one win away from trying to get to (Dayton). They’re good, they’re talented, and they’re disciplined. We’re going to have to bring our A-game to beat them. But we’re excited about the opportunity.”
Fairfield (23-4) beat Princeton (19-8) both times during the regular season. But the Vikings had other plans early on Wednesday night.
The Indians led the entire first quarter, mounting their largest lead at 17-9 on a Crim bucket.
Princeton responded with a 12-0 run, led 21-17 midway through the second quarter and took a 26-21 advantage into the half. The Vikings won the second period 13-4.
“We were not very happy at halftime,” Wyrick said. “But I just felt like they got to some 50-50 balls on us in the first half. We were missing shots, and that’s fine. That’s going to happen. I told them after the game that a sign of a good team is you go 11 for 25 from the foul line and 2 for 11 from 3, and you still find a way to gut one out. It’s a sign of a really good team and really tough kids.
“The kind of message at halftime was that the shots will fall, but our effort and energy level can’t be dependent on if we’re scoring or not.”
Princeton senior Kevin Adorno scored 11 of his team-high 15 points in the second half, including a pair of free throws at the end of the third quarter that gave the Vikings a 38-34 lead.
“I felt like we eventually settled in. We kind of imposed our will in that fourth quarter,” Wyrick said. “I thought our seniors obviously made some great plays.”
Fairfield outscored Princeton 17-7 in the fourth quarter and held the Vikings to without a field goal in the final eight minutes.
“Mike Lewis making that 3 to put us up,” Wyrick said. “I didn’t know if we were going to hold it for the last shot. Crim got inside and drew four, and (Lewis) was wide open. It was one of those, ‘If it goes in, it’s a great shot. If it doesn’t go in, it’s not.’
“But for a sophomore to step up and make that play in this environment, that’s a heck of a play,” Wyrick added. “And I’m really proud of him for that.”