Fairfield romps past Foxes
Mules race away to 71-32 win; improve to 8-0 in the BDC East
MCLEANSBORO – The Fairfield Mules, coming off of an resume building signature win over Nashville at the Rich Herrin Classic at Benton on Saturday, were perhaps primed for a let down when they traveled to Black Diamond Conference East Division rival Hamilton County on Tuesday night.

That notion turned out to be nonsensical as the game was practically over before Hamilton County got the license plate number of the truck that hit them.

Coach Scott McElravy saw zero letdown as they rolled to an early lead and won handily 71-32 Tuesday night.

Fairfield improved their division mark to 8-0 while increasing the overall total to 24-4.

“We stressed that (no let down) after Saturday. That was a big win for us to beat Nashville and we jump right back into conference with two games. We have had some battles with them (Hamilton County) here at their place,” said Coach McElravy. “We challenged the guys to keep it up. We kept the pressure up. I think they had 16 turnovers at the half which is a big advantage for us.”

Since the BDC expansion in 2003-04 into East and West Division's, the Mules have won outright or shared seven league championships.

The Mules are guaranteed at least a share of title number eight with the win and will go 10-0 if they can win games against Edwards County and Carmi-White County to close the season.

Three different Mules led the offensive attack with 15 points each.

Six-foot-four junior Landon Zurliene scored 10 of his 15 in the second quarter while 6-foot-3 classmate Kane Hixenbaugh got going early with seven of his 15 in the first quarter.

“They are both about 6-3, 6-4, and long and they just slow the game down and they don't get out of sorts too often,” said Coach McElravy talking about Zurliene and Hixenbaugh. “And they can finish around the basket with either hand in traffic.”

Senior forward Luke Dagg netted nine of his 15 in the third quarter as the trio took turns scoring in the triumph.

Five-foot-eleven junior guard Noah McElravy also put together a solid night, hitting a pair of 3-pointers and finished with eight points.

Five of his points came in the opening minutes as the Mules assumed control.

The other scorers for Fairfield included six points from junior Blake Pruitt and five points each from juniors Colin Massis and Brandon Lane.

Senior guard Wyatt Gilbert only added one basket for two points but his forte is defense as he helped goad the Foxes into multiple mistakes.

“I think southern Illinois is learning how good Wyatt Gilbert is as a defender,” said Coach McElravy. “He held Carson Parker (Nashville) to just two points in our game Saturday. In the last two Saturday's he has guarded two of the best players in the south (Dawson Yates of Pinckneyville) and did well. He is a great kid, too.”

Hamilton County had 16 first half turnovers, 24 for the game, with most of them caused by the Mules' pressure.

Coach Doug Miller's Foxes, who have already surpassed last season's win total (five), fell to 14-14 overall and 4-4 in the league.

None of the Hamilton County players ended up with double-digits in scoring as 6-foot-3 junior Robbie Morgan was the top Fox with nine.

Two of the Foxes; senior Gus Walden and sophomore Tyce Gordon, added five points apiece.

Senior Garrett Webb (4) and senior Zach Weaver (3) each added points.

The Foxes game plan was to try and limit possessions on this night on offense while keeping the Mules within striking distance.

After giving up a couple of early free throws to Hixenbaugh, Hamilton County ran their offense for just under a minute and got a good shot from Morgan near the basket that went in for a 2-2 tie.

It was the only time that this strategy really worked on this night.

The next 11 points were scored by the visitors.

A total of eight turnovers by the Foxes in the first quarter fueled the early Mules march and forced a pair of Miller timeouts.

Hixenbaugh dropped a pair of field goals in the run, McElravy added a pair of foul shots, Massie also converted a shot and Gilbert scored his only points during the full court press that baffled the hosts.

Hixenbaugh's second shot was a 3-pointer from the right wing as the lead expanded to 16-4 with 1:50 remaining.

“That was the game plan, to slow it down and work the ball and get lay ups. We got one good possession and scored and it was 2-2 and we thought 'hey, here we go, you never know' but they knew we were trying to hold it like that,” said Coach Miller. “We made turnover after turnover after turnover. And that (16 first half) is too many.”

Hamilton County did respond with a brief scoring run with both Gordon and Webb scoring.

Then Morgan netted his second shot of the game, rebounding a missed 3-pointer from Webb for a stick back to close the frame at 18-10 Mules.

The second quarter belonged to Zurliene and Fairfield.

The senior guard/forward hit the first three baskets for the Mules in the frame.

He scored on a pair of drives to the goal and then made a steal off of a Hamilton County rebound for a easy bucket.

Another Hixenbaugh score, off of yet another Foxes' turnover, pushed the lead to 28-14.

A Walden score briefly stopped the Mules' scoring spree.

However the next nine points came from Fairfield.

Zurliene grabbed a rebound off of his own missed shot and Hixenbaugh added a pair of free throws and another score in transition.

A 3-point bomb by reserve Pruitt made it 37-16.

Zurliene closed his half with another bucket and Dagg scored on a lay in as the half ended at 41-20 Fairfield.

The Mules erased any halftime chalkboard plans the Foxes had on making a comeback with a 16-2 run to open the third quarter.

Zurliene added two more buckets while Dagg netted a pair of shots and two free throws himself.

McElravy hit his second three pointer of the game from the left wing in the run.

The Dagg free throws slammed the book shut and ended the drama as the lead stood at 58-22 with 1:40 remaining.

The two Dagg free throws were a result of a foul on Hamilton County's Gordon who tried to block a shot on the fast break.

Gordon fell and crashed into the baseline bleachers, which are dangerously close to the end line.

After a few minutes of being on the floor, Gordon went to the bench on his own.

The quarter ended at 63-25 as the reserves of both teams took on the “Broom Challenge” in the fourth quarter cleaning things up with continuous clock.

Coach McElravy's club ended up 27-of-50 overall from the floor and 6-of-11 from the arc.

A very misleading stat showed that the Foxes held a 23-14 rebounding edge, due to the hosts turning the ball over many more times than they attempted shots.

Hamilton County, when they got shots off, hit 13-of-27 overall, 1-of-4 from the 3-point line.

“We came into the game thinking we could hold it, shoot layups and free throws, play good defense and win the game,” said Coach Miller. “Do all of the things that we set out to do. But they are really good and well coached. They beat Nashville for a reason. They are a really good high school basketball team.”

The Mules valued the ball as they committed just seven turnovers, two of which came from reserves late in the game.

Fairfield will be back in action on Friday as they host BDC East foe Edwards County while the Foxes host Carmi-White County on Friday also.

“Starting last year the kids bought into us getting up and pressuring teams because we knew we had the depth to do it,” said Coach McElravy. “I think we have gotten even better at it this year. I think we are taking better shots this year, also.”

Black Diamond East Division
Hamilton County

Fairfield (71) – McElravy 0 2 2-2 8, Gilbert 1 0 0-0 2, Hixenbaugh 4 1 4-4 15, Zurliene 7 0 1-2 15, Dagg 6 0 3-3 15, Massie 1 1 0-0 5, Lane 2 0 1-1 5, Pruitt 0 2 0-0 6, Barger 0 0 0-0 0, Best 0 0 0-0 0, Vaughan 0 0 0-0 0, Robbin 0 0 0-0 0, Sork 0 0 0-2 0. 2FG-21, 3FG-6, FT-11-14, PF-11.
Hamilton County (32)
– Peters 0 0 2-2 2, Webb 2 0 1-2 3, Weaver 1 0 1-2 3, Morgan 4 0 1-2 9, Walden 2 0 1-2 5, Thrane 0 0 0-0 0, Gordon 1 1 0-0 5, G. Lueke 0 0 0-0 0, Richards 1 0 0-0 2, Harrelson 1 0 0-0 2, C. Lueke 0 0 0-0 0, Karcher 0 0 0-0 0, Hamson 0 0 0-0 0, Futrell 0 0 0-0 0, York 0 0 0-0 0, Eck 0 0 0-0 0.
2FG-12, 3FG-1, FT-5-8, PF-12.
Fouled Out
– None.
Technical Fouls
– None.