MOORE — Fairview senior Payton Van Meter knew she had to correct her mistake. Her answer came in the biggest basket of her career.
Fairview defeated Thomas 44-43 in the opening round of the Class 2A girls basketball state tournament at Westmoore on Thursday. With 44 seconds left in the game, Van Meter backed off Thomas senior Savana Marsh, who drained a 3-pointer to give Thomas the lead, 43-42.
“It was all on me,” Van Meter said. “I knew I had to do something.”
It was either make a play and move on or play her final high school basketball game.
So she took the ball coast-to-coast, fearlessly, and scored a layup to give Fairview the lead. Her teammates answered with a defensive stop that led them to the victory and a second-round meeting with either Northeast or Preston at noon Friday at State Fair Arena.
Although the final stop sealed the win, Fairview's defense in the third and fourth quarter helped slow down Thomas’ Keelah Hamar. The Yellowjackets trailed a majority of the game thanks to Hamar. Fairview knew about Hamar’s ability beyond the arc but had a hard time containing her in the first half, and the 75-percent free throw team struggled at the line, missing 7 of 19.
Hamar jacked up six 3-pointers and lead all scorers with 20 points.
In the third and fourth quarter, though, Hamar was held to a layup from the right of the basket and one 3-pointer from the left side of the arc, respectively.
“We knew she was a shooter,” Fairview coach Mike Barton said. “We changed our game plan to stay close. We went straight man.”
Fairview and Thomas are familiar with postseason meetings. They met once in the regular season — which Fairview won — and in last year’s semifinals — which Fairview won too.
Still the jitters of a state tournament seemed to get to both teams in the first quarter. There were eight jump balls in the first half, not including the tip. The second quarter is when Hamar rattled off three from beyond the arc, all from the right side.
Then came the change in defending Hamar and improved confidence from the Yellowjackets, who hit jumpers, free throws and layups to take the lead, 41-40 with 2:22 remaining in the game.
Both teams drained time off the clock by dribbling around and not making it to the hoop, and then the final minute of the game came.
“Chaos is a good word for it,” Barton said.
It started with Fairview junior Emily Martens' trip to the free-throw line with 57 seconds remaining. She made only one of her shots. Then 13 seconds later, Van Meter backed off of Marsh and she drained the three. Then Van Meter’s layup came to make it 44-43. With 4.8 seconds left, Hamar had a chance to win it, but she turned the ball over, and Fairview's players began to high-five each other and cry.
With teary eyes, the Yellowjackets stood in the hallway on their cellphones calling family to talk about the late-second victory. Van Meter wiped her eyes as she was surrounded by fans who began to hug her.
“Great job,” they said. Then one blew out a deep breath and Van Meter laughed. “We’re glad that’s over.”