- Greg Billing Contributing Writer
If anything accurately summed up Tecumseh’s fortunes in the Division I sectional final against Fairmont on Monday night, it came with about 2:10 left in the fourth quarter.
Tecumseh, trailing by eight, was attempting to claw its way back into contention and desperately needed a defensive stop. Four times Fairmont missed shots within two feet of the rim. And finally, after that fourth miss, Tecumseh wrestled away the rebound, then lost control under the Firebirds basket for a turnover.
“It was one of those stinking nights you hope doesn’t happen in tournament,” Tecumseh coach Danielle Thomas said after Fairmont’s 50-35 win at Troy High School. “Fairmont is athletic, aggressive and big. They took care of business.”
Fairmont (17-8) stormed to a 12-2 lead and held Tecumseh (19-6) to one first-quarter field goal. It took the Arrows a little more than five minutes to score their first points on a pair of free throws from junior Corinne Thomas.
Still, Tecumseh rallied to take its only lead on a Thomas basket with 1:11 before halftime.
With Fairmont focusing on slowing Tecumseh juniors Presley Griffitts and Thomas – who combine to average 43 of the Arrows’ 68 points – the Arrows struggled finding offense in the third quarter. Thomas finished with 14 points and Griffitts had three. Freshman Terah Harness added 11.
“Those two kids are fantastic. They can flat out score,” Fairmont coach Lacy Drake said. “We knew we had to rotate our best defenders on them. We wanted to face guard them, make them work and wear them out. I think we did a pretty good job.”
The Firebirds, meanwhile, outscored the Arrows 14-6 in the third thanks in part to Fairmont’s presence in the post.
Madison Bartley, a 6-foot-3 sophomore, scored seven of her game-high 18 points in the quarter. Bartley scored Fairmont’s final five points of the third quarter and opened the fourth with another score for a 34-22 lead.
“You can’t coach 6-3. That’s tough to defend when you’re 5-10,” coach Thomas said of junior Macy Berner, who did her best to match up with Bartley. “That’s the one thing we’re definitely missing a huge big inside.”
Fairmont’s win avenged losses to Tecumseh in the last two sectionals, including last season’s 54-45 win by the Arrows.
“It’s a little extra motivation,” Drake said. “We know they’re a really good team and a great program.”
Fairmont advances to play Lakota West (ranked No. 5 in the final state poll) for a D-I district championship at Princeton on Saturday.
Fairmont will be without sophomore forward Madeline Westbeld for a second straight game. She was suspended for violating team rules. Westbeld leads the Firebirds in both scoring (11.3) and rebounding (11.1).
“It’s huge. She’s such a crucial piece of what we do,” Drake said. “We have 15 kids on our roster and I have faith on them to step up when called upon.”
The 35 points was a season-low for Tecumseh, which was averaging 70.2. The Arrows – usually the ones forcing miscues with their full-court pressure – committed a handful of uncharacteristic mistakes.
“It was one of those that no matter what you seemed to do nothing seemed to work,” coach Thomas said. “Everyone seemed out of sync with it. It was a physical game and I think a few of them struggled with that. … When you get behind you start doing a lot of things you don’t want to do with the ball.”
Tecumseh’s sectional final appearance capped a season in which the Arrows captured their school-record third straight Central Buckeye Conference Kenton Trail Division. They also upset No. 3 seed Lebanon.
It doesn’t get easier next season as Tecumseh adds Greater Western Ohio Conference powers Beavercreek, Centerville and Springboro as well as state-ranked Lakota West to the schedule.
“(Beating Lebanon) was a big program win, which we were looking for this year,” coach Thomas said. “We have a lot of work cut out for us because our schedule picks up big time.”
Wayne 41, Springboro 30: The Warriors pulled a mild upset and rebounded from a decision loss to the Panthers in the regular season by winning a D-I girls sectional final at Troy. A No. 2 seed, Springboro (21-4) had its 12-game win streak snapped and had defeated Wayne 56-27 in the regular season. Panthers senior Jordan Diehl surpassed 1,000 career points in the game. Wayne (15-9) will play the Fairfield/Mount Notre Dame winner in a district final at Princeton on Saturday.
Beavercreek 48, Centerville 38: The Beavers defeated the Elks for the third time in a D-I sectional final at Butler. Beavercreek (21-4) also advances to a D-I district final at Prince on Saturday against the Ursuline/Mason winner.
Legacy Christian 46, Fayetteville Perry 19: The Knights easily won a D-IV sectional final at Monroe. Legacy Christian (22-3) will play the Covington/Franklin Monroe winner in a D-IV district final on Saturday at Troy.
Cedarville 55, Southeastern 17: The No. 2 seeded Indians easily won a matchup of Ohio heritage Conference rivals in a D-IV sectional final at Monroe. Cedarville (20-5) will play No. 1 seed Fort Loramie (20-5) in a D-IV district final at Troy on Saturday.