Lady Dragons enjoy Final Four trip
COLUMBUS — It was a fun trip. Fairland Lady Dragons’ coach Jon Buchanan would like to do it again.
The Fairland Lady Dragons enjoyed their first-ever trip to the girls’ state basketball tournament and only the second in school history. The boys’ 1961 team also reached the Class B state tournament.
The trip was spoiled by Friday’s 67-60 semifinal loss to Versailles at the Ohio State University Schottenstein Center, but Buchanan said it didn’t dampen the team’s experience.
“We came here yesterday and watched the first games and when we came in, we saw the star on Proctorville on the state (logo). That meant a lot. That was really neat. That was something that really touched all of us to see that star,” said Buchanan.
“Most every other star was much farther north. I felt our girls did a really good job of representing that star as well. That’s been one of the best things of the weekend. We’re so happy with all the fans that came to that and seeing that star on that court representing Proctorville was a big deal.”
Fairland’s 6-foot-4 senior center Terra Stapleton — the two-time Associated Press Player of the Year who has signed with Michigan — said the entire week was an experience.
“It’s been very exciting,” said Stapleton. “We’ve had really big crowds. Our community was really very supportive. It was like a big celebration for everybody, not just our team. Our whole community was here to back us up and I’m very proud of where I come from and where I live.”
Senior guard and four-year starter Chandler Fulks had her experience disrupted by a knee injury she sustained in practice on Thursday. Fulks fell and has a tear in her meniscus.
Despite the injury, she played even though she winced several times with obvious pain.
Still, she was happy.
“It didn’t turn out the way we wanted, but we still played really hard. I’m really proud of this group,” said Fulks.
“The adrenaline at first really, really helped. There were a couple of times when I really pushed it more than it wanted to be pushed. It hurt, but I would rather play on a broken knee and a bunch of torn ligaments than miss out on this, so I was trying to push through it as much as I could.”
Besides Fulks, Buchanan said a couple of other players including starting guard Caitlin Stone were not 100 percent. Stone led the Lady Dragons with 15 points including three 3-pointers.
“We’re pretty banged up, not just Chandler but a couple of other kids. But, again, our school had never been to the state tournament in 53 years. Our kids aren’t going to pass up this opportunity to play,” said Buchanan.
“To see Chandler and Caitlin Stone — who was a little dinged up herself — go out and play like they did is just a testament to their pride in themselves and their pride in our team and understanding for the people of Fairland that this is a once in a lifetime opportunity and we had to go seize it and I thought our kids did an excellent job of that and not leaving anything on the floor and looking back 20 years down the road that I left everything out there. I played hurt. I did whatever I had to do.
“Those of you who are fathers kind of say, ‘I remember when I played hurt whenever I was whatever,’ well, these kids can actually really say that. They did do that. They did it pretty well actually.”
Buchanan noted that seniors Stapleton, Fulks and Bri Dickess posted a 68-6 record over the past three seasons, winning three Ohio Valley Conference titles, three district crowns and making three regional appearances along with the state tournament berth to lay a great foundation for the program.
“We talked about it in the locker room. People had talked to me all week, ‘Coach, you don’t seem as nervous as what I thought you’d be. And I said, ‘I hope it’s not going to be another 53 years. I don’t feel like it will be. I know I’m not going to stop working,” said Buchanan.
“All the kids were like, ‘I’m not going to stop working, either.’ We’re going to work to continue to build some things. We have some really good returners. We have some good kids who started and played most of the game and a couple of kids who came off the bench that I felt like in a state tournament game today did a great job, filled in nicely. They showed they weren’t scared of the big stage. We feel like once this 28 days the OHSAA makes us take off, we’ll be back at it, back to work trying to get back to the Schott.”