It wasn’t that long ago that L’Christian “Blue” Smith was torching opposing teams with long receptions for touchdowns. That’s why it felt good to hit a home run during Friday night’s delayed boys basketball opener.
“It’s a big transition,” said Smith, who scored a team-high 22 points in a 65-57 defeat of upset-minded and visiting Fairmont. “That’s what I have to do this year. I’m the only veteran-veteran on the team. I was a little rusty at first, but great teams find great ways to win and I couldn’t be more proud of my guys. Now, it’s a big-man role. I have to lead my team each and every game.”
It was the high school boys opener for both teams. Their seasons were delayed because Wayne advanced to the Division I regional semifinals in football and Fairmont postponed last Saturday’s game against Alter because of the Knights’ 14-week football run.
Wayne, coming off a 25-1 season, appeared ripe for an upset. Except for Smith, the Warriors are made up of untested reserve players from last season and it showed early. Fairmont led by as many as five in the second half and still led entering the fourth quarter.
Isaiah Trice’s 3-pointer broke a 51-all tie and put Wayne ahead for good with 6:20 left in the final quarter. Fairmont had no answer for Wayne’s heady play and Smith’s two dunks in the final 30 seconds.
Trice, the third son to play for Wayne coach Travis Trice, added 11 points. Fairmont’s Jack Hendricks matched Smith with 22 points and Cade Morgan added 10 points and six rebounds.
“What it comes down to is they’ve been in a lot more of those crucial situations and big-game type atmospheres,” said Fairmont coach Blair Albright, in his fourth season. “They just made more winning plays than we did.”
Both teams play against today. Wayne will host Indianapolis Northwest. Fairmont will host Bethel and high-scoring Caleb South, a junior who surpassed 1,000 career points in the Bees opener.
“We’ll take it,” Coach Trice said. “It’s early. We’re getting these guys’ legs in basketball shape. We’re trying to get the football legs out and actually getting a chance to get these guys to play together. We may not shoot the ball great but we’ve got to grind it out and that’s exactly what they did.”