GRANVILLE — Harold Fay didn't make the Tri-County Conference All-Tournament team after a pair of sub-par games. But boy did he show up for the championship game Friday night.
The Putnam County junior guard scored a career-high 31 points to lift the host Panthers to a 64-63 win over neighboring Hall High School at R.M. Germano Gymnasium. The Red Devils had a last-second shot for the win, but Brett Fanning's attempt from the right wing just inside the three-point stripe rimmed the basket as time expired.
PC Josh Nauman doubted that Fay flew in under the radar.
"I think they probably knew who he was already," Nauman said. "He just really struggled the first two games. He didn't score until overtime Wednesday. Tonight, he was ready to go. Harold came out with a lot of energy and focus tonight. He’s our emotional leader. He got us off to a great start. He just came out playing great. That kind of got everybody else going.”
Hall coach Mike Filippini threw everybody defensively at Fay ... except the bus driver ... and still couldn't slow him down.
“We tried four different guys on Fay. He was just too strong," Filippini said. "I watched him play five and one-half quarters Wednesday night, and he scored five points. He had five points the first two times he touched the ball tonight. Fay beat us. He is a great player. It’s not like we got beat by some scrub that Josh found on the end of his bench. He beat us. You've got to give him credit. That kid played a heck of a game. It's not like we didn't try to guard him. That kid was just that much better."
Even so, the Red Devils gave themselves a chance to win on a night their leading scorer, Fanning, didn't score until 11 minutes into the game.
Fanning's pull-up three-point pop to beat the buzzer brought Hall within 32-24 at halftime after trailing by as much as 12 points in the second quarter. The Red Devils used a 7-0 run, including three-point plays by Miquel Villareal and Fanning, to close within 42-41 with 2:23 to play in the third quarter.
Fanning again closed out the third quarter on a drive to trim PC's lead to 48-43.
Fay took over once again in the fourth quarter, hitting a three-pointer to open the final frame and another to cap a nine-point tally to put the Panthers up 63-56.
Hall fought back with a drive by Villareal, a three-pointer by Fanning and a baseline drive by Erick Fuentes to make it 64-63. Danny Nolasco gave the Red Devils a chance for the win with a steal on the press. The Red Devils got the ball into the hands of their money man, but this time Fanning was unable to cash in.
"We told the kids when you get to a championship game and have a chance to win it and lose by one point, it sucks to lose," Filippini said. "We haven't been in this situation and showed in the first half. We were scared and nervous playing in front of a big crowd for a game that meant something. We outplayed them the second half and deserved to win the game. We just came up short."
The TCC crown is the ninth in school history and first for PC since 2008. It also allows Fay the opportunity to carry on the family legacy of his father, Harold, and brothers, Carlton and Kevin, who all also won the tournament championship.
“Big shoes to fill and I guess this is the start of it. Get the Tri-County championship and hopefully get that regional championship," Fay said.
“This is a great tournament. It’s been around forever," Nauman said. "You get great crowds, and everybody plays hard. We got third my first year here and second last year. We were hoping to move up and get the one we wanted this time. It feels really great."
Filippini said the Red Devils made a great run to reach the championship and will gain some confidence.
"It's not easy getting to the championship. Ask Henry, they were the No. 1 seed and didn't even win a game in the tournament. It's hard to get here, and we got here," he said.
Fanning, who was named to the all-tournament team, led the Red Devils with 18 points,
PC had a pair of players selected to the all-tournament, Cody Veronda (9) and Xavier Warren (8), combined for 17 points.
Hall (7-14) got 12 points from Austin Schmitt and 11 from Villareal.