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Defense gives Lady Dragons district crown

Fairland Lady Dragons’ Caitlin Stone (23) shoots a jump shot over Alexander’s Leah Richardson (4) after making a steal during Friday’s Division III district championship game. Fairland beat Alexander 42-38 for its fourth straight district title. (Kent Sanborn of Southern Ohio Sports Photos)

Fairland Lady Dragons’ Caitlin Stone (23) shoots a jump shot over Alexander’s Leah Richardson (4) after making a steal during Friday’s Division III district championship game. Fairland beat Alexander 42-38 for its fourth straight district title. (Kent Sanborn of Southern Ohio Sports Photos)

Jim Walker

jim.walker@irontontribune.com

 

WAVERLY — The score suggested a defensive battle. The way the Fairland Lady Dragons played proved it.

Fairland used an aggressive, physical defensive effort to fight off the Alexander Lady Spartans 42-38 on Friday to win a fourth straight Division III district title.

Fairland coach Jon Buchanan pointed to the 26 forced turnovers — 15 steals — as evidence that his team played well defensively.

“A team that is guard oriented and has a great point guard and to turn them over 26 times, that’s outstanding. We usually play good defense and tonight was no exception,” said Buchanan.

“Before, Fairland had never won a district title and now they’ve won four. They’ve been through grinders, a possession game, so they know what it’s about.”

Fairland also posted its fourth straight 20-win season. The Lady Dragons (20-5) will now play Wheelersburg at 8 p.m. Wednesday in the regional semifinals at Logan High School. Wheelersburg beat McClain 54-40 Saturday.

The Lady Dragons five seniors used their experience to trigger the win. Mackenzie Riley was a key factor with eight points and 12 rebounds.

“I just wanted to come out, play hard and give it my all and that really motivated me to be a little more aggressive than I normally am offensively,” said Riley.

“We were looking to contain (Leah Richardson). She’s a great ball-handler, a great driver and whenever she gets in (the lane) she kicks it out and we really wanted to contain her and close out hard on their shooters.”

The defense closed out well as Alexander (18-7) was able to make just 13-of-40 shots for 32.5 percent.

“I thought our defense was fantastic. We worked rally hard. We really tried to do everything we had been practicing for to prepare for this game,” said Riley.

Fairland took an 8-2 lead to start the game before a fouls hot by Richardson tied the game at 8 with 1:51 on the clock.

Emily Chapman’s layup and a free throw by Caitlin Stone gave the Lady Dragons an 11-8 lead.

Kelsey Riley made a layup to start the second quarter for a 13-8 lead, but a layup by Jala Mace got Alexander within 15-13 and Allyson Malone banked in a 3-poitner to give the Lady Spartans a 16-15 halftime lead.

Kelsey Riley hit another layup to start the second and a layup by Jenna Fulks off a pass from Kelsey Riley and two foul shots by Chapman extended the lead to 21-16.

Alxander used two straight 3-point plays by Richardson to go up 22-21 at the 3:48 mark, but Stone got two steals in a row that she converted into four points and the Lady Dragons took the lead for good at 24-22.

Chapman followed with a triple, but Richardson had two baskets of her own as Alexander cut the deficit to 27-26.

Stone hit s 3-oint for a 30-26 lead but Mace’s layup with eight seconds on the clock and it was 30-28.

In the fourth quarter, Mackenzie Riley hit back-to-back layups and Fairland was up 39-33 with 3:56 to go.

“Mackenzie is a great example of a kid who might miss 15 layups but still affect the game in so many other ways. You need her on the court all the time,” said Buchanan.

“We have a lot of kids who aren’t one-dimensional. You saw Caitlin usually makes a lot of outside shots only made one tonight. But defensively she was outstanding. She can do a lot of different things. That’s a sign of a really good player.”

Two foul shots by Kelsey Riley opened up a 41-33 lead with 1:10 left, but the Lady Spartans didn’t quit.

Makina Milum had a putback and Richardson drained a 3-ball and it was 41-38 with 18 seconds to play.

Kelsey Riley hit the second of two foul shots with 15 seconds to play to make it 42-38.

Alexander missed a 3-point attempt and got the rebound, but the Fairland defense pressured the Lady Spartans’ shooters to prevent any more 3-point attempts as the clock hit zero.

Stone had 11 points to lead the Lady Dragons.

Richardson had 16 points and eight rebounds while Malone had 13 points and five rebounds for Alexander.

Alexander 8 8 12 10 = 38

Fairland 11 4 15 12 = 42

ALEXANDER (18-7): Jala Mace 2 0 3-4 7, Leah Richardson 4 1 5-6 16, Makina Milum 1 0 0-0 2, Allyson Malone 2 3 0-0 13, Nicole Hudnall 0 0 0-0 0, McKenzie Jones 0 0 0-0 0, Ally McClain 0 0 0-0 0, Alexis Mohler 0 0 0-0 0. Totals: 13-40 8-10 38. 3-point goals: 4-15. Rebounds: 14-off. 21-def. = 35 (Richardson 8, Milum 8, Mace 7, Malone 5). Team rebounds: 5. Assists: 3 (Milum 2). Steals: 7 (Hudnal 2, Malone 2, Richardson 2). Turnovers: 26. Fouls: 15. Fouled out: Richardson (4th 0:15).

FAIRLAND (20-5): Taylor Staten 0 0 0-0 0, Mackenzie Riley 4 0 0-1 8, Kelsey Riley 3 0 3-4 9, Caitlin Stone 3 1 2-5 11, Jenna Fulks 3 0 1-2 7, Emily Chapman 1 1 2-3 7, Alesha Simpson 0 0 0-0 0, Maddie Kazee 0 0 0-0 0, Sarah Warnock 0 0 0-0 0. Totals: 16-45 8-15 42. 3-point goals: 2-9. Rebounds: 12-off. 14-def. = 26 (M. Riley 12, K. Riley 4). Team rebounds: 4. Assists: 6 (K. Riley 2). Steals: 15 (Stone 4, M. Riley 3, Fulks 3). Turnovers: 14. Fouls: 15. Fouled out: None.