BUTTE — Fairfield didn’t expect to win a state title a day early, but the Eagles now have a share of Class B’s biggest prize.
The Eagles defeated Three Forks 58-39, as senior Keeley Bake dropped 17 on his final night as a Fairfield Eagle to lift his team to a share of the Class B state title after the MHSA announced the cancellation of the state’s four tournaments.
Bake, who finished with 10 rebounds and a double-double, commented on the fact that the victory was only possible through team effort, and that there is more to his team than winning titles.
“It was a great team win, great battle in the first half, great battle in the second half. Two hard working teams and a couple buckets went our way, and forced a couple turnovers that ended up helping us get the W.”
“It’s good. It’s not all about the trophies either, it’s playing with your buddies. Something I’ll never forget for sure.”
Three Forks and Fairfield’s unrealized battle for a share of the state title was played in a more methodical, slower game compared to the other semifinal between Lodge Grass and Rocky Boy, as the Eagles and Wolves each brought their best defense.
Battling leg and hand injuries, Three Forks standout senior Micaiah Hauser was quickly an important factor for the Wolves after a slow start to the tourney making a deep and early three to rally the Three Forks crowd.
Wolves head coach Terry Hauser talked about Micaiah’s perseverance and desire to hit the court for what ended up being a state title game.
“Macaiah has a dislocated finger,” Hauser said. “Doctor said that it was probably broken, but he didn’t want x-rays because he wanted to play.”
Bake expectedly catalyzed the Fairfield offense in return, as the two sides battled to what was expected to be an 11-11 total at the end of the first quarter.
However, junior Conor Murray hit the shot of the tournament, firing from 10 feet beyond the half-court line to sink a buzzer-beater and earn the Eagles a 14-11 advantage.
Fairfield head coach Jordan Ratliff pointed out that the Eagles were 0-for-10 from the three-point line in the first quarter before Murray’s heave.
“It’s a good thing when we can’t hit a normal three-pointer,” Ratliff said. “We go o-for-the-ocean and [Murray] hits a half-court shot and you go, ‘Things are going to be alright.’ It was a great shot that gave us some momentum going into the second quarter.”
Murray commented on what the second-by-second feeling was.
“I didn’t really know how much time was left,” Murray said. “I thought we were just trying to break because they’re boxing Keeley and I thought we were just trying to get him open. Then coach yelled at me to shoot it, so I looked up at the clock and shot it and it just went in.”
While it was a moment that energized the Fairfield team, Three Forks continued to play their game and matched the Eagles as Hauser finished with 13 first-half points.
Fairfield’s defense proved to be too much, though, as the Eagles held the Wolves to seven points in the third quarter, and almost matched the effort by holding Three Forks to eleven in the fourth.
As Fairfield began to distance themselves from the Wolves, Hauser said he sat his team down with a few minutes remaining to tell them the news of the cancellation.
“I found out it was canceled with about five minutes left," Hauser said. "[Fairfield] was up by eight or ten, and I called a timeout. I probably shouldn’t have, but I told my kids, ‘This is it, fellas, this is it.’ They went out and hustled and airballed a few shots and I thought, ‘Dangit, probably shouldn’t have done that.’”
Meanwhile, Fairfield looked to ensure the win by scoring 16 and 18 points in the final two quarters, the two highest of the game as junior Guidry Giles got onto the scoresheet with 10 second-half points as the Eagles locked in their share of the trophy.
Hauser said the difference-maker was not how the Wolves performed, but that the shots just didn’t seem to fall.
“It is what it is,” Hauser said. “I’m just glad we got play a couple games, these kids got to compete and be in a semifinal game against Fairfield. We were right there, just didn’t make enough shots. They looked good all night, we just couldn’t buy a bucket.”
Micaiah Hauser matched Bake’s 17, while senior Dustin Dalke concluded with nine points. Fellow senior Zack Pitcher knocked down two threes and scored eight, while sophomore Austin Allen led the contest in rebounds with 14.
For the Eagles, Bake’s 17 was followed by Giles’ 10, which was matched by junior Gavin Mills’ 10. Murray’s half-court shot helped him end with eight, and sophomore Daniel Faith contributed six points.
Ratliff said that the process of reaching the title was a massive experience.
“I’m very proud of our kids, they worked hard all season long. It’s kind of surreal to even be in this moment and to be able to say that we played in the state championship. Coming from the beginning of the year to now, I just would’ve never expected it. All the credit to my boys.”
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