CINCINNATI — The Fairborn Skyhawks, winners of 11 straight going into Saturday’s District Final for the first time since 1970, saw their season come to an end against Cincinnati Archbishop Moeller at Xavier University’s Cintas Center, 55-43.
The Skyhawks (18-8) knew they were up against a tough opponent in the Fighting Crusaders, but they came into the matchup on a roll and confident.
“We knew we were outsized, so we were kind of hoping that we could pack it in tight and keep our bigs in position to pull down rebounds against their bigs,” said head coach Nathan Chivington. “You got to tip your hats to them. They’re good on the inside and the outside. There’s a reason why they’re state-ranked.”
Moeller (24-1) got out to an early five point lead, but Fairborn senior Jordan Michael hit a three to get the Skyhawks on the board. Towards the end of the quarter, Michael and Moeller guard Adam Gigax had a three-point dual, trading bombs on four straight possessions. Moeller led 16-9 after one, and Michael had all nine points for Fairborn.
The Fighting Crusader’s margin continued to grow in the second quarter. Moeller shot 50 percent in the first half, compared to Fairborn’s 31 and led 29-17 at the break.
“We were hoping that they would miss some of those shots and we would be able to rake in some of those rebounds, and we also didn’t shoot the ball well ourselves. If we knock down some of those shots in the first half, it’s a different ballgame,” said Chivington.
“We prepared our guys as best we could, and I’m proud of our guys for what they did in this game and what they’ve done in the tournament and all season. These guys battled, they didn’t back down from Moeller. We just finished our journey before we wanted to.”
While the Skyhawks did a good job defending the perimeter, they held Moeller guard Grant Benzinger scoreless for the game, they just couldn’t defend the paint. Moeller center Nate Fowler had a game-high 22 points and continuously shunted any sort of momentum that Fairborn had.
Michael had a team-high 16 points for Fairborn. Sophomore guard Jordan Pumroy added 10 and senior Malik Jacobs had eight. For Michael, Jacobs and fellow senior Devin Bliss this marks the last game in a Skyhawks uniform.
“This is probably one of the greatest seasons we’ve had in all school history. Definitely the greatest of my career, so it really meant a lot. I know it came to an ending, but just to come this far, I’m proud,” said Jacobs.
“A little ways through the season, we found out what mental toughness really was and I think that helped us maybe sometimes reach out of our bubble of how good we are. So it took coming together and becoming mentally tough,” said Michael. “I hope we just got a little tradition going, because Fairborn isn’t really used to going to far.”
Chivington also talked about how this season will make an impact moving forward.
“We told our seniors thank you for leaving a legacy, for passing down the torch. Now our younger guys have a goal in mind, a new goal. Now they know what it looks like, what needs to be done to get to the next level,” he said. “We’re hoping that now a tradition has been created and settled in, and with having young guys in our lineups, we hope to move forward in our future with the mindset that this is an obtainable goal.”
“Jordan Michael is definitely going to be missed. With his scoring and just his presence, just as a leader, he will definitely be missed. Malik, a guy that’s almost averaging a double-double, a high flyer, a fan favorite, is definitely somebody that is going to be hard to replace. And Devin Bliss is a guy that accepted his role and worked hard every day in practice, which is what you expect from your upper classmen. So I can’t thank these guys enough for passing down the torch and leaving a tradition that hopefully we can continue with.”
The Skyhawks’ run definitely riled up the Fairborn community. Four buses of students made their way to the game to support the team.
“That was awesome,” said Michael of the student section. “I love our students and they love us. I think getting this far just really made us come together as a family and them being there helped get us this far. I can say for certain that they got us over the hump against Beavercreek and Tecumseh.”