Lady Dragons face Northwest in D2 state semi-finals

Published 12:59 am Tuesday, March 7, 2023

By Jim Walker

PROCTORVILLE — The Fairland Lady Dragons are ready for the big stage.

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Fairland is headed for the program’s third Final Four as they prepare to face the Canal Fulton Northwest Lady Indians at 1 p.m. Thursday in the Division 2 state basketball semi-finals.

The unbeaten  Lady Dragons were ranked No.2 in the final Associated Press poll and are riding a school-record 27-game winning streak.

Northwest coach Kevin Lower’s father Jim Lower coached the Northwest boys team to a school record 25 wins in 2004 when the Indians reached that program’s only Final Four.

Now the younger Lower has guided the team to a girls’ school record for wins in a season with a 26-2 record and its first-ever Final Four berth.

Lady Dragons’ veteran head coach Jon Buchanan — who has guided the team to Final Four appearances in 2014 and 2015 — said the number of times in the state tournament aren’t a factor because none of the players have been to the Final Four. He said it comes down to which team will execute the best.

“They beat Sheridan by three about a month before the season ended. They’re definitely solid,” said Buchanan. “They really played well in their regional finals.

“Teams that play like us tend to slow it down, play zone and play slow offensively. They play both ways. We don’t know what to expect. It’ll be interesting to see what they play.”

Northwest lost to CVCA 38-29 and 43-36 in the regular season but upset the Lady Royals 30-27 in the regional semi-finals.

CVCA won the Principals 7 conference title at 14-0 with Northwest second at 12-2.

The Lady Indians followed that upset with an upset of top-seeded Canfield 51-29 in the regional title game.

Northwest is led by Lily Bottomley who is a 6-foot-2 senior center and headed to Loyola University-Maryland.

“She’s pretty good. She’s legit. With their offense they obviously want to run their offense through her,” said Buchanan.

Bottomley and 5-9 senior forward Ashley Cudnik were both first team in the Principals Athletic Conference 7.

Senior point guard Ashlyn Stark — second team PAC-7 —is joined in the starting lineup by 5-9 senior guard Gianna Kuhn and 5-8 junior guard Delanie Carmany.

In volleyball, Cudnik was first team all-conference and Kuhn honorable mention. Stark was honorable mention all-league in soccer.

Fairland will counter with 5-6 senior point guard Tomi Hinkle who averaged 12 points a game and was the Southeast District Player of the Year and 5-11 junior Bree Allen who averages 14.3 points a game and was first team all-district.

The rest of the starting lineup will come from 5-3 senior guard Reece Barnitz, 5-11 junior Kylee Bruce, 5-8 freshman Bailey Russell and 5-11 freshman Addison Godby.