Every season since, the No. 4-seeded Lady Lions (20-3) have shown improvement, fought off a pandemic season of COVID-19 in 2020-21, taken their bumps and bruises playing against players a few grades older than them at the start of the seasons, and even won a Southern Hills Athletic Conference Division II co-championship last season.
All that high-level college basketball work against state-ranked teams — and they themselves have been ranked in that state at times this regular season — has added up to face their highest-ranked opponent so far. day…the No. 1 seed Wheelersburg Lady Pirates (22-0), who finished the regular season undefeated and as the state’s No. 1-ranked Division III team.
The moment this Fairfield team built begins Friday, February 25 at 6:30 p.m. at Waverly Downtown Gym, because that’s when the final 91 college games of senior careers all come down to a chance to do what a only other Fairfield Lady Lions basketball team has… won a district championship.
Fairfield – who is coached by Jeremy McGraw, in his first year with the program – has four seniors in his starting lineup, being Madison Bronner, Emma Fouch, Braylynn Haines and Ella Newkirk, as well as junior Peyton Magee, as they all have played in 22 of 23 games together this season. Two players off the bench who are making a difference are sophomores Faith Donley and Caitlyn Quickle.
The list also includes senior Shaleigh Duncan and freshmen Kelsey Clark, McKinley Cox, Hannah Hamilton, Jobey Hattan, Kassi Miller and Ginny Trent.
McGraw explained how his team is preparing for Friday night’s game.
“As far as preparation (for the game), we just stay in the moment,” McGraw said. The Highland County Press. “We don’t change much. The girls are working hard, watching movies and working on the scouting report.
The senior class in its four seasons at the college level has seen its overall records drop from 10-13 to 13-10 to 17-5 to now 20-3 after 23 games this season. In four seasons, Fairfield seniors are 60-31 overall (with just eight losses in the past two seasons combined), with a SHAC mark of 43-18.
Fouch – the second all-time leading scorer in Fairfield women’s program history, currently with 1,273 career points – leads the team in points per game this season at 15.8, while also averaging 4.1 rebounds per game, 2.2 assists per game and 1.7 steals per game. .
Magee is the team leader in apg (5.0) and spg (3.0) this season, and she averages 8.2 ppg and 4.8 rpg. She is also the all-time assists leader for Fairfield.
Bronner is the team leader in all three rebounding categories this season with 4.3 defensive rebounds per game, 3.2 offensive rebounds per game and 7.5 rpg. For her career, she grabbed more than 500 rebounds.
Also for Fairfield, Newkirk is averaging 7.3 ppg, with 2.2 rpg, 2.9 apg, and 2.0 spg. Haines averages 8.1 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 1.2 apg, and 1.0 spg. Donley this season is averaging 5.9 ppg 2.5 rpg, 1.5 apg and 1.6 spg.
In 23 games this season, the Lady Lions are shooting 42% from the field, scoring 1,339 points and averaging 58.2 points per game.
Fairfield was last in a district final game in the 2007-08 season, where they beat three teams in the tournament with wins over Portsmouth Notre Dame (51-27), Whiteoak (66-52) and Beaver Eastern ( 32-28) en route to their last district game where they lost to Waterford (67-47). This team finished with a 7-6 record in the SHAC.
As for the only district champion in Fairfield women’s basketball history, they were described as a “Cinderella team” in 1994 because they had an overall regular season record of less than .500 at 11-14, but when the tournament began, glass slipper fit so to speak, as they went on a four-game winning streak to make the Sweet 16.
The 1993-94 side, coached by Kevin Fouch, won section games against Portsmouth East (65-19) and Western Latham (42-41) and district games against Green (38-30) and Crooksville ( 42-41). ) to win the district championship. The 1993-94 Lady Lions lost in the regional semi-final to Buckeye Trail, 81-36. In the regular season, SHAC (then named the Southern Hills League) had no divisions and had 12 teams.
The 2021-22 Lady Lions suffered just three losses this season as they set an overall record of 20-3, where they finished second in SHAC Division I (10-3), in addition they have won a sectional championship and in all three games of this current post-season. Their only defeats this season have been against Eastern (twice) and a game against Peebles.
Fast forward 28 seasons from the 1994 team and 13 years from the 2009 team, and the Lady Lions are back in the District Finals, where the opponent who stands in their way, albeit undefeated, is coming off a two-point victory. against North Adams, a side the Lady Lions have beaten twice this season.
The Lady Lions are coming off tournament wins against Westfall (49-18), Oak Hill (51-38) and Adena (50-38). This postseason, Fairfield is averaging 50 points per game in three games, while allowing an average of 32.3 points per game.
Wheelersburg this season (including three tournament games) scored 1,173 points, averaging 53.3 points per game. This postseason, they beat Ironton (53-32) and North Adams (42-40). Fairfield this season has beaten North Adams twice by scores of 62-53 and 41-39.
Wheelersburg – who is coached by Dusty Spradlin – has allowed an average of 37.6 points per game in 22 games played this season. In two tournament games, the Lady Pirates allowed an average of 36 points per game and scored an average of 47.5 points per game, as they are described as a good defensive team whose after game has improved compared to last season.
Individually for Wheelersburg, senior Alaina Keeney is a 5-10 3-point shooter and Wheelersburg’s top player. She is an All-Ohio candidate and described as an all-around player. Keeney is averaging 15.6 ppg, with 5.0 rpg, 2.1 apg and 1.4 spg. She shot 46.7% from the field, 42.3% on her 3-point attempts and 70.6% from the free throw line.
Also in Wheelersburg’s starting lineup is Makenna Walker, a 5-6 junior who drives and scores while attacking the basket, averaging 13.0 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 2.7 apg and 2.1 spg . From the field, she’s shooting 44.2 percent, with 35.5 percent from 3-point attempts and 63.6 percent from the free throw line.
Lexie Rucker is a 5-9 junior post player, averaging 9.0 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 1.8 apg, and 1.4 spg. She’s averaging 47.1 percent from the field, with 24.7 percent on her 3-point attempts and 61.8 from the free throw line.
Wheelersburg also has Madison Whittaker, a 5-5 junior who shoots 3-pointers, and Macee Eaton is a 5-7 junior who is known for her rebounds and after presence.
McGraw gave his opinion as he entered the game against Wheelersburg on Friday night.
“We are very happy to be able to play for a district championship. The girls deserve all the credit,” McGraw said. “They have worked extremely hard to be here and deserve it. We understand what is at stake with Wheelersburg. On paper, we are the underdogs, but we know who we are.