1984 was the year that Prince’s ‘Purple Rain’ was released. The Soviet Union boycotted the Los Angeles Olympics. Ronald Reagan defeated Walter Mondale for the U.S. presidency. And the Fairfield girls’ basketball team last beat Gettysburg. That is, until Wednesday night in Fairfield, where the Knights played tenacious defense and hit shots when they needed to in defeating Gettysburg, 39-35.
Fairfield coach Andrew Ditty has been very diligent over the last few years in building the Fairfield program to one of respectability. While this year’s Gettysburg team is not on a par with the Warriors’ senior-laden team of last year, it was still a team that Fairfield could once only dream of beating.
“I am just so proud of our girls.,” Ditty said. “I told them to desire everything tonight. Desire the ball, desire the moment, desire the opportunity that we had. They know that this year it’s the journey. We look at ourselves as the little team that could. We think we can, and after tonight, we know we can.”
The Knights put the fans on notice right away that they were serious about winning this one. Hannah Myers got things going when she hit consecutive shots to start the game. Breana Valentine then chipped in with a turnaround jumper and charity toss to put Fairfield up 7-0 just three and a half minutes into the game. Myers ended up with a career-high 14 points.
Gettysburg clawed back into the game at the free throw line, as Maddie Delaney and Emma Raville combined for four points from the stripe. Delaney scooped in a layup, then hit a jumper from the foul line to pull the Warriors close at 11-8. Valentine then hit two of her five free throws to give the Knights a five-point lead, but with just four seconds left in the quarter, Lydia Floreck hit her first of three three-pointers, banking one home off the glass. The Knights led 13-11 after one quarter.
“I was nervous all day,” said Ditty, “because I have the utmost respect for Coach Bair. He is a phenomenal coach and always has his girls playing very hard.”
Early in the second quarter, Valentine, the best player on the court, got tagged with her third foul and went to the bench. Ditty was going to let her teammates pick her up, despite the temptation to put her back in before the half. Sure enough, as soon as she sat down, Myers hit a three, but Floreck countered with a three of her own to give Gettysburg an 18-16 lead. Myers made a layup, then made a foul shot, getting the lead back for her team at 19-18. But, in the waning seconds before the half, Floreck hit yet another three, and the Warriors went into the locker room with a 21-19 lead.
“I was frustrated sitting out with three fouls, but I looked to my team and just kept supporting them,” Valentine said. “We are good together, and we work really well together. It’s all about the team.”
As the third quarter began, and with Valentine back in the game, the Knights took control. Valentine came out with intensity, and had five steals in the third. The first one, she was fouled on her layup attempt and made both free throws. The second one she drove the length of the court for a layup. The third one she dished to Catherine Aker who made a turn-around jumper. The last two ended up with layups as well. Valentine ended up with eight third quarter points, as Fairfield outscored the Warriors 10-3 in the period, and led 29-24.
“We finally won a third quarter, and that was the difference in the game,” Ditty said. “It’s historic. I knew that this was an opportunity for us to play up, and it was a good challenge. I think this can be the spark that will get this program going.”
Valentine, who ended up with a game-high 18 points, agreed with Ditty’s assessment.
“I started to feel like we could win the game in the third quarter, because we were leading most of it,” Valentine said. “A win like this makes us feel like we can play against any team, and it gives us a lot of confidence.”
The Warriors were not about to go give up, however. Delaney hit a deep three from the top of the key to open the fourth quarter. Valentine responded with a driving layup, and with 5:33 to go in the game, the Knights were up 32-27.
Delaney, who ended the game with a career-high 16 points, made a free throw, Sofia Royer made a layup, and Delaney then hit her third trifecta, this one from way downtown, and suddenly Gettysburg had tied the game at 33-33, with 3:04 left.
True to form though, Valentine came right back with a three of her own from the top of the key, and then Myers hit a turnaround jumper for a 38-33 Knight lead.
“I think we missed a lot of easy ones, and we made a lot of mental errors,” said Gettysburg coach Jeff Bair. “And that’s experience. We get the shot to tie the game, and we let their best player just go down and shoot. She was the best player on the court, and that’s the difference.”
Lights-out defense by the Knights in the game’s final two minutes iced the victory, and the 1-28 record against the Warriors since 1979 seemed irrelevant. To say that the Knights were excited is quite an understatement.
“It is all about the team,” Ditty said. “They are very close and just support each other through it all. Moments like these are truly special for small close-knit schools like the one here at Fairfield. We have had the support of so many people. Not only our players, their parents, the school staff and administrators, but our athletic director, trainer, and our maintenance department do everything they can to make us ready to go.”
Despite the upset, the inexperienced Gettysburg team has shown that it has potential in having a fine season. Some things need to be cleaned up, such as free throw shooting and shot selection, but the young Warriors will keep working.
“We are making some progress,” Bair said. “It’s great to see them improving, but likewise, it’s difficult to be in two close games that from my perspective, we could be sitting 3-0. That would be a great thing and that would really help their confidence level. But that’s not the way it is, so we go back to square one tomorrow. I love teaching the game. They are willing to work, and they listen.”
The Warriors (1-2) will next play at Williamsport on Saturday, while Fairfield (2-1) will host Columbia-Montour on Friday.
Gettysburg 11 10 3 11 — 35
Fairfield 13 6 10 10 — 39
Gettysburg (35): Emma Ravile 0 2-3 2, Maddie Delaney 5 3-6 16, Jade Barrick 0 2-4 2, Sofia Royer 2 0-0 4, Megha Makkenchery 0 1-2 1, Liberty Picarelli 0 0-2 0, Lydia Floreck 3 1-6 10. Non-scorers: Addison Caywood, MacKenzie Kibler. Totals: 10 9-23 35.
Fairfield (39): Cadence Holmberg 0 2-4 2, Hannah Myers 6 1-4 14, Maddy Fulgham 0 0-1 0, Catherine Aker 1 1-5 3, Breana Valentine 6 5-5 18, Karina Miller 1 0-2 2. Non-scorers: Lily Fredrikis, Cora Click.
3-pointers: G-Delaney 3, Floreck 3; F-Valentine, Myers. Totals: 14 9-21 39