Lady Warriors win 19 in a row
Division II girls basketball
By Ryan Kaczmarski
For the second year in a row, the Fairview High School varsity girls basketball team has won the Division II sectional championship. The Lady Warriors defeated Padua, 47-35, last Thursday night for the team’s 19th-straight victory, and a win in the last game played in their gym this season.
The long winning streak is nothing new for the Fairview program, but the team is looking at it differently this season.
“After winning 14 in a row last year, and getting the chance to look back at it, we never really enjoyed it, because after each win, we put all our focus on the next game,” fourth-year Fairview head coach Bill Harvey said. “It wasn’t until the season had ended when I really comprehended what we had accomplished.
“I never thought we could repeat or even break that, and I guess I was completely wrong. We are now on a 19-game winning streak and just enjoying the ride. This streak is a lot different, because we have had to deal with several issues throughout the season that could of easily brought the streak to an end, but I guess it has just made the team, staff and all of us as a whole, stronger.”
Fairview’s offense sputtered out of the gate, going 8 for 21 shooting and committing 10 turnovers in the first half.
“We were down 12-9 at the end of the first quarter, but had the speed at a good pace and it was causing Padua to commit some simple turnovers, and keep us in it,” Harvey explained. “In the second quarter, we started to impose our will a little more on the defensive end, and the pace of the game was in our favor.”
The Warriors won the second quarter by a margin of 14-5, and junior Kelsey Bilak finished off the first half with a 30-foot 3-pointer at the buzzer.
“The gym exploded when it splashed through the net,” Harvey said. “I thought that (shot) might springboard us into the second half, but to Padua’s credit, they really slowed us down in the third quarter and we really never had any of those 8-0, 10-0 runs that have helped spark us.”
Padua took a 27-26 lead late in the third quarter, but freshman Cate Schmeidel hit a big 3-pointer to put Fairview back on top, and the Warriors never looked back.
Leading the way for Fairview was Katie Smith, who scored 16 points – which puts her 10 points away from the school’s single-season scoring record – had six rebounds, seven steals and five assists. Bilak scored 10 points and had six steals. Senior Bri Kovacevich led the Warriors with nine rebounds, while senior Megan Coyne pitched in with four assists.
“Four years ago when I took over, I never imagined any of this but I knew the three freshmen at the time were very special,” Harvey stated. “Katie Smith, Bri Kovacevich and Megan Coyne started this whole thing right beside me. After their freshman year, the four of us sat down and decided if we were going to do this we needed to dive in head first and that we did.
“That summer we were in some kind of shoot-out or camp and just got destroyed because I would only put us against the top level competition,” he added. “I think we won three games all summer, but by the end we were hanging right with teams that were playing in regional championships or even state games. From there we just spring boarded to where we are now. I always look back to that summer and feel that is why we are who we are today. Megan Coyne is the engine that drives us. She is the floor leader and the things she does with the basketball just amazes us. Megan can see things happening two or three steps ahead of it happening.
“Bri Kovacevich has turned into the muscle inside for us and the interior force. There was several times last season were Bri was able to shut down very gifted post players and since we liked to play four guards most times she would single-handedly control the boards,” he continued. “I don’t know if I have enough time or space to describe Katie but if I had to do it in one word it would be ‘warrior.’ From day one she has bought in 110 percent to me and my ideas of where and how the program had to go. Katie has done so much to improve her game each year and help make the Lady Warriors who they are. I am truly blessed to have had the opportunity to coach this group. Even with all the ups and downs I wouldn’t trade this for anything.”
Fairview faced Keystone Monday night for the district semifinals, which is a rematch of a game played earlier this season.
“We were able to beat Keystone about a month ago, but teams change over a period of that kind of time,” Harvey said “I think we have changed in a good way and have fine tuned a few things that make us a even harder matchup.”
If the Warriors won on Monday (the game was played after the West Side Sports deadline), they will face the winner of the game between Holy Name and Vermilion, Friday night at Elyria High School for the district championship.
“Both teams provide different kinds of problems,” Harvey explained. “Vermilion plays a lot of zone and they have mastered it quite well. If you don’t execute your zone offense it could be a long night. We ran into that problem last year with them, and we fell in love with the quick shot and it wasn’t falling. They return a very gifted player in Hannah Bartlome who can single-handily take a game over and close it out all by herself.
“Holy Name is the defending district champion, and basically returns all of its pieces from last season. They have size inside as well as the guard play to go along with it. I really hope we have that problem this year of figuring out how to stop Vermilion or Holy Name, because that will mean we made it to the second-ever district finals in Fairview girls basketball history.”
****Since the print edition’s deadline on Monday, the Lady Warriors defeated Keystone, 45-30, for Coach Harvey’s 100th career victory, the team’s 20th-straight win and gives Fairview High School’s girls basketball program it’s first appearance in the district finals since the 1995-1996 season – only the second district finals appearance in school’s history.