Fairfield's top-ranked defense scores school's first state championship
Defense, free throws and grit.
The Fairfield Falcons needed all three Saturday night against Corydon Central, and each one paid off during the Class 3A Indiana High School Athletic Association state finals at Gainbridge Fieldhouse.
As the top-ranked defense in the state, regardless of classification, Fairfield lived up to their billing, while setting three 3A state finals records to beat Corydon Central, 49-42, and capture the school’s first-ever team state championship in any sport.
Brodie Garber, a 1995 Fairfield graduate, fittingly addressed reporters after his Falcons’ historic victory with his four seniors by his side.
Grade schoolers when he began coaching at Fairfield 11 years ago, each senior, including his daughter, Brea Garber, have played a key role in the 10 winning seasons and now 180 wins in coach Garber’s career at his alma mater.
No more so than win No. 28 this season.
Brea Garber scored a team-high 19 points against Corydon Central with four rebounds and a state finals record 13 free throws made in 15 attempts.
Garber’s 13th free throw, which she sank in the third quarter, set a new standard in the 3A finals, surpassing both Evansville Memorial’s Mallory Ladd (2011) and Northwestern’s Madison Layden (2019) former record of 10 made.
The Falcons (28-2) set a new 3A state finals team record by converting 25 of 35 free throws, besting Evansville Memorial’s 2011 mark of 22.
Fairfield’s 35 free-throw attempts set a 3A record for most attempted. The former record was 32 by both West Lafayette (1998) and Northwestern in 2019.
“We adjusted some things with our zone. They tweaked a little bit, but in the end free throws were dynamite tonight,” Brodie Garber said. “To do it on this stage is what really, really impresses me a lot.”
It was also necessary against Corydon Central (27-3), which exchanged leads with Fairfield seven times in the first half and deadlocked the score twice.
Fairfield led 25-24 at halftime, but in the third, its defense, which was averaging 28.31 points per game surfaced.
The Falcons clamped down in the second half, limiting Corydon Central to just two points in the third quarter. Panthers’ Josie Vaughn broke up the five-plus minute drought with a layup at the 2:52 mark of the quarter.
The Falcons required more resilience than just defense against Corydon Central, a team that carried a 16.55 average margin of victory, and Fairfield found its advantage from 15 feet.
“Ten (field goal) shots (made) and then all the free throws,” Brodie Garber said. “It was several years ago, these four led a challenge. It was 25,000 shots and a decent amount of them had to be free throws. These four led us in that.
“We’re not out to win some beauty contest. We’re out here to kind of slug it out on the defensive end, and then kind of take some advantage of things on the offensive end. The defense we played in this tournament has been tremendous and tonight was another example of that.”
Fairfield’s closest margin of victory this season was by a mere three points, 49-46, against 4A Northridge during the Northern Lakes-Northeast Corner Classic finals on Nov. 26.
Corydon Central’s largest margin of victory this season reached 43 points, while the Panthers touched 20 or more points 12 times, including a 68-40 win over Rushville in the regional title game on Feb. 11.
A select few could keep up with Fairfield this year, as the Falcons posted a 26.62 average margin of victory with two wins of 50 points or more. Their 76-16 win over West Noble on Jan. 27 marked their most lopsided win.
The Falcons also beat Prairie Heights, 69-19, by 50 points on Jan. 10 and cruised past West Noble by 49 points in the Fairfield Sectional semifinals on Feb. 3. Fairfield beat West Noble by 46 points during the regular season.
Much of that offense, however, is generated by defense, including 17 points off turnovers against Corydon Central in the state title game.
“I guess it’s kind of like Al Davis with the Raiders. Just win baby,” Brodie Garber said. “We haven’t had a whole lot of games that was like, man, that’s an offensive juggernaut coach, way to go. There were a few here or there, but in the end, after tonight’s game, we’re probably going to be around 28 points per game. That’s not bad. That’s what wins games because offense comes and goes, but defense can be there every night.”
Free throws steadily mounted for the Falcons, as they went 5-for-5 in the first quarter, 3 of 5 in the second, 3-for-4 in the third and 14 of 21 in the fourth.
Corydon Central trailed by nine points, 35-26, early in the fourth quarter, but the Falcons’ lead didn’t move past two possessions until the final two minutes.
A pair of foul shots converted by senior Bailey Willard put Fairfield up 42-35 with 1:28 remaining, but it was freshman Eva Herbert’s two free throws with 28.4 seconds left that provided the needed cushion at 46-40 and Brea Garber fouled out.
“Eva was the one putting a lot of pressure on herself, and she’s a freshman. She’s 15. I don’t even know if she has her driver’s permit at this point,” Brodie Garber said. “Sometimes, she just doesn’t know any better, which is kind of nice, but deep down, I think she knew, she had to step up for her teammates and she really did.”
Willard buried 3 of 4 free throws in the final 12.1 seconds to find herself full circle.
“I remember, it was our seventh-grade year, and the high schoolers went to semistate. I just remember going to those games and dreaming that it would be us some day,” Willard said. “Now, that it is, it’s just an unreal feeling, honestly. And I get to do it with my best friends. I’m just very grateful.”
In 2017-18, Fairfield advanced to the semistate finals, stumbling just one step away from a state appearance against Northwestern, 70-43. Last year marked the Falcons’ most recent near trip to state, as they lost to Frankton, 35-34, in the semistate finals.
“It just feels amazing. After last year, we did not want that same feeling again,” Brea Garber said. “We wanted to make it to state, and not only make it but win it. We were able to do that this year. We executed when we needed, and as seniors we led this team pretty well.”
Both Fairfield and Corydon Central set a new 3A record for combined free throws attempted at 49 to beat the previous mark of 46 set in 2019 by Northwestern and Benton Central.
Fairfield senior Morgan Gawthrop finished with 13 points and 12 rebounds for a double-double. Willard added 12 points. Corydon Central was led by Ava Weber’s game-high 23 points on 7 of 17 shooting and 9 of 11 free throws made. The Panthers went 9 of 13 from the charity stripe.
Class 3A State Championship Records
Most FT Made: 13 by Brea Garber, Fairfield
Most FT Attempted: 15 by Brea Garber, Fairfield
Most Assists (Tied): 8 by Bailey Orme, Corydon Central
Most 3FG Attempted: 26 by Corydon Central
Most Combined 3FG Attempted: 39 by Corydon Central (26) and Fairfield (13)
Most FT Made: 25 by Fairfield
Most FT Attempted: 35 by Fairfield
Most Combined FT Attempted: 48 by Fairfield (35) and Corydon Central (13)
Most Fouls (Tied): 25 by Corydon Central
Fairfield’s Brea Garber honored with Roy Mental Attitude Award
Following the game, members of the IHSAA Executive Committee named Brea Garber of Fairfield High School as the winner of the Patricia L. Roy Mental Attitude Award in Class 3A Girls Basketball.
The award is presented annually to a senior participant in each classification who was nominated by her principal and coach and has demonstrated excellence in mental attitude, scholarship, leadership and athletic ability.
Brea plays an important role in her community besides being a basketball player. She is a 10-year 4-H Club member and she is a part of her school’s chapter of the National Honor Society. Brea is also a Sunshine Club Member and listed as a 2022 Academic All-State athlete as a volleyball player. Further in volleyball, she was on the 2021 Underclass All-State Team and the first Fairfield athlete to be named All Conference in two sports for all four years.
She is the third Falcon athlete to win an IHSAA mental attitude award and the first since 2008 when Courtney Herschberger was honored at the 2A volleyball state finals.
She is the daughter of Brodie and Amy Garber of Goshen, Indiana and plans to attend Indiana Wesleyan University to pursue a career in Elementary Education.
The Indiana Fever and Indiana Pacers, the presenting sponsors of the IHSAA Girls Basketball State Tournament, presented a $1,000 scholarship to the general scholarship fund at Fairfield High School in the name of Brea Garber.
The award is named in honor of the late former IHSAA assistant commissioner Patricia L. Roy, who oversaw the girls basketball state tournament from its inception in 1976 until her retirement in 1999.