On Saturday evening, Fairfield girls basketball brought home the first state title in school history. And it was a moment for the ages, there should be no other way to look at it.
But you don’t have to look at just this season to see how successful that Fairfield has been. While in and around Fort Wayne, the last decade has focused on programs like Homestead or the dominance of Jay County in the ACAC, among many others, Fairfield has kind of quietly been a dominant force in the NECC and beyond.
Quiet up northwest of Fort Wayne? Surely not. And those who cover and focus on that region or the NECC may find this column after Saturday’s state title game comical because of that.
But in the hub of Northeast Indiana basketball, I feel that Fairfield has not gotten the love and respect that they deserve, nor has coach Brodie Garber for the amazing things he has done with this program.
In 11 years with Fairfield, Garber is 180-89. The program was 13-9 his first season and only had one losing record after, surpassing 20 wins three different times including this season. They made it to semi state in 2018 with 24 wins before running into the wall that Northwestern was becoming. A Garber led on the bench and on the court (with Brea) Fairfield team returned to semi state again last season with a one-point loss to Frankton. Then they moved up a class and made a semi state run for the third time in six seasons.
How often does any team, of any class, make that kind of a consistent run in the postseason? They don’t. Fairfield does.
I remember talking to Garber during 2018’s postseason run. He talked before the semi state game against Northwestern that year about the gambit of emotions he and the team went through in the Regional round. It was a change for Fairfield, and this point its become old hat. That should say a lot about the program and Garber, because he also told me back then about how you “don’t get to do this every single year,” but now they kind of do.
On Saturday, Fairfield went to Gainbridge Fieldhouse to play for a state title. For a stamp on their program’s successful run under Garber.
The opening half was as good as it gets if you are a fan of high school basketball. The teams exchanged buckets and the defense of both was high caliber too. On a day of pretty good state title games, the Class 3A battle between Fairfield and Corydon Central may be able to lay claim to being the best. Fairfield led by one at the half, 25-24.
And as credit to coach Garber, he never seemed to be changing from his calm and cool demeanor from the way he dressed for the biggest game of his career to the way he patrolled the sidelines with a smooth stride.
The third quarter was a remarkable one for the Falcons, who has used their defense to stifle opponents all season. They extend their zone with Brea Garber at the top and it makes it difficult to attack gaps or find good passing lanes. They held Corydon Central, who averages 56.1 points per games, to just two points the entire third quarter, leading the frame to soar by with Fairfield having a nice advantage into the fourth.
There were so many opportunities for Corydon Central to climb back into the game late, but Fairfield kept pushing them away. Bailey Willard and Morgan Gawthrop both were critical on the glass as the rebounding leaders for Fairfield with six and 11 each, respectively, in the game. Willard in particular looked especially aggressive in the fourth. Freshman Eva Herbert helped put the game away with two big free throws on one trip in the closing minutes, despite being just 2-of-6 overall from the line in the game.
The team too held on without Brea Garber, who fouled out with a game high 19 points, late in the fourth. It could have been a moment to crumble, but all of the Falcons stepped up, from Herbert to a chorus of seniors who were second graders when Brodie Garber first took over the Fairfield program.
In the end, it was the aggression to get to the rim and patience to find opportunities against a solid Corydon Central defense that made the difference. Fairfield worked their way to the free throw line 36 times, hitting 25 shots and scoring more from the line than they did from the field. The execution was as perfect as it could be and Fairfield took full advantage of the magic moments on the day.
Fairfield girls basketball has done its job. It gets to return home with the BIG trophy, but even if they hadn’t won, what they have done has been phenomenal.
They’ve done it as favorites this season, as underdogs, as the headliner and as the forgotten. But instead of worrying about any of those titles, Fairfield girls basketball was, as it has been, their own thing.
While they have arguably the best senior class in program history leaving, there is a presence now about Fairfield girls basketball and one that should be focused on and revered moving forward.
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