Fairland girls basketball
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Carson Francis

Carson is an aspiring journalist and a student at Ohio University's E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. He's a lifelong fan of all things Reds, Bengals and Buckeyes, and has seen the game through the eyes of a player, fan and reporter.

Fairland drops heartbreaker, ousted by Laurel in state semifinal

Fairland ended its season at 26-2, dropping a heartbreaker to Shaker Heights Laurel.

Carson Francis, Staff Writer

Southern Ohio Sports Authority is presented by OhioHealth.

DAYTON — After a devastating loss in the state tournament last year, Fairland had one goal all year long … get back to Dayton and finish the job.

The Dragons kept last season’s state tournament loss in the back of their minds all season long, looking to earn a shot at redemption this March.

And, after Fairland won the OVC title and cruised through the sectional, district, and regional tournaments, it found itself back at the University of Dayton on Friday, facing Shaker Heights Laurel for a spot in the state title game.

“This group has been locked in ever since we lost in early January [to Portsmouth, the team’s lone loss],” Fairland head coach Jon Buchanan said. “Our team has been super locked-in on both ends of the floor as time has went on.”

But despite a valiant effort for 32 consecutive minutes, the Dragons’ dreams of a state title fell short once again.

A missed free throw with 0.2 seconds left cut Fairland’s weekend short in a second straight year as it fell to Laurel in a 53-52 heartbreaker.

“There’s nobody from Proctorville that would regret coming to this game,” Buchanan said. “This may not have ended the way we wanted it to, but this happens to everybody but one team. We wanted to play for the state championship tomorrow, and we were super close. I’m super proud of our kids. I know it had to be a fun game to watch, it was fun to coach.”

Fairland’s Bree Allen looks for an open teammate during Friday’s Division II state semifinal contest at the University of Dayton Arena.
CREDIT: Derrick Webb/SOSA

After finding themselves in a 6-1 hole to start, the Dragons (26-2) fought back and forced a 10-10 tie after a triple from Kamryn Barnitz with less than two minutes left in the first quarter.

From there, Fairland kept connecting from outside the 3-point arc, putting itself at a 16-15 advantage after one.

The Dragons stayed hot in the second, beginning the quarter on a 9-2 run. However, Laurel (19-10) stayed in the mix with Saniyah Hall and Liv Schneider both scoring late, cutting Fairland’s lead to 27-21 at halftime.

The Gators used that momentum burst, picking up where they left off in the third.

Jordyn Meyer scored the first five points of the half in the first minute, cutting the deficit to 27-26. Saniyah Hall then drove right to the bucket for an easy score, putting the Gators back in the lead at 28-27 and capping a 7-0 run.

Hall continued to attack the basket, putting up eight points in the quarter. Her tenaciousness allowed Shaker Heights to force a 40-40 tie heading into the final eight minutes.

“Hall was the best player on the floor,” Buchanan said. “We knew who she was coming in. She could have been named Ms. Basketball this year. She’s that talented.”

If Fairland wanted to play for a state championship, the Dragons needed to regain the momentum that put them in front in the first half.

That happened as they started to once again find a rhythm.

The two teams went back and forth in the fourth and when Hall scored inside, Fairland had an answer on the other end.

Later in the fourth, with less than a minute to play and Fairland trailing by three, Bree Allen stepped up and connected from the top of the key with a triple.

Laurel’s Nyla Edwards then answered with a lay-up on the other end, giving the Gators a 51-49 lead just before Addison Godby drove the base line and forced another tie at 51-51 with 15.6 seconds remaining.

That’s when chaos ensued.

Meyer scored to put the Gators in the lead late, but Bailey Russell was fouled right after on a hard drive to the basket and — with 0.6 seconds on the clock — went to the free throw line, looking to force overtime.

After knocking down the first attempt, the second bounced off the front of the rim, putting Fairland’s season to a heartbreaking end.

“It’s obviously hard and I feel really terrible,” Russell said after the game. “But I’m very proud of this team and what we’ve accomplished.”

“If we had a technical foul, Bailey would’ve been the one shooting the free throws,” Buchanan added. “People miss sometimes. It happens. We had the exact scenario we wanted. When she got fouled, that’s what we wanted, and we just fell a little bit short.”

Statistically, Kylee Bruce had 11 points, seven rebounds and a pair of assists while Godby added 11 points, six rebounds and two helpers. Russell and Barnitz also had 11 points each — with Russell having four assists — while Allen added six points, 14 boards and three assists.

Fairland’s Kylee Bruce scored 11 points in Friday’s loss to Shaker Heights Laurel.
CREDIT: Derrick Webb/SOSA

The Gators advance to the Division II state championship game, where they will face Cincinnati Purcell Marian. That contest is slated for 5:15 p.m., Saturday at UD Arena.

Meanwhile, Fairland sees another great season come to an end at 26-2, finishing the season as league, sectional, district, and regional champions.

“In 28 days, the next class is coming to work. When the OHSAA allows us, we’re going back to work. Even if we would have won today, that’s just what we do,” Buchanan said. “I couldn’t tell you an instance where, if the gym was open, our seniors weren’t coming. There’s no excuses. If the gym is open, if their teammates are there, they are there. That’s just who they are, and that’s why we’re able to be here.” 

The Dragons are also forced to say goodbye to four seniors — Katie McIntyre, Bree Allen, Hannah Taylor, and Kylee Bruce.

“Obviously, the players make big impacts on games, but it’s really the coaches,” Bree Allen added. “They’re the ones opening the gym for us. We couldn’t be anywhere without them. They sacrifice so much. [Buchanan] told us before the game that when we were tired to play for the coaches and play for the sacrifices they’ve made.”


Fairland: 16-11-13-12 — 52

Laurel: 15-6-19-13 — 53

Fairland: 18-43 FG, 10-15 FT, 6-18 3pt., 34 rebounds (Allen 14), 15 turnovers, 14 assists (Russell 4). Scoring: Godby 11, Russell 11, Barnitz 11, Bruce 11, Allen 6, Taliaferro 2.

Laurel: 23-59 FG, 3-8 FT, 4-15 3pt., 34 rebounds (Hall 15), 7 turnovers, 12 assists (Hall 4). Scoring: Hall 26, Meyer 14, Johnson 6, Williams 3, Edwards 2, Schneider 2.


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