By Ryan Kaczmarski
The Fairview High School girls varsity basketball team had a season of Hollywood-like proportions. But unlike in the movies, the Warriors did not win the final game of the season, against the conference leader, to take the school’s first-ever conference title. The Clearview Clippers took the Patriot Athletic Conference crown with a 43-40 win over the Warriors.
A victory over Clearview on Saturday would have been the cherry on the top of an amazing season for Fairview, a season in which the Warriors had the best regular season record in school history (18-4, 11-4 in the PAC), a 14-game winning streak (also a school record) and a No. 1 seed in the upcoming Division II state tournament (also a school first).
The Warriors started the final week of the regular season with a 43-37 victory at Brooklyn High School last Wednesday. The victory was the team’s 14th in a row, but it was not an easy chore, as the score was tied 37-37 with just 3:22 to go in the game.
“I was kind of glad for (the close game),” Fairview head coach Bill Harvey said. “We’ve been winning games by 20 and 30 points (this season) and we’ve hit a nice groove. We needed games like this, because there are going to be nights where our shots aren’t falling.
“We decided from the get-go that we were going to live by playing defense, and here (at Brooklyn) we got several key stops and steals,” he added. “I kept telling (the team) during time outs, good teams will have nights like this, and we have to figure out how to win (these games). A game like today’s will get us ready for the tournament.”
Fairview ran a full-court pressure and trapping defense throughout the game, forcing multiple gaffes from the opposing team.
“I start four guards, and they’ve been with me all three years I’ve been here,” Harvey said. “That’s how we play. We’re going to pick you up full-court and force turnovers.
“We feel that we’re in better shape (than most opponents), so we’re going to take the game up and down (the court). My girls get stronger as the game goes on.”
The Warriors were led in scoring by junior guard Kaitlyn Smith, who scored a game-leading 19 points, followed by junior guard Megan Coyne, who scored 10 points.
Before Saturday’s loss at Clearview, the Warriors’ most recent loss of the season was at Columbia on Dec. 15, 2012. Now they will move on the the postseason, where they will be facing Bay (9-11, 6-7 in the West Shore Conference) in the first round, and hopefully a rematch against Clearview in the sectional championship game, in the Elyria district of the Division II state tournament.
“Being the No. 1 seed, nothing was given to us, and that’s fine,” Harvey said of the postseason matchups. “Here in Fairview, before I came here a couple of years ago, they were only winning a couple of games a year. The mentality here was down and we really had to change that with the group of freshmen, who are juniors now – along with my one senior, who was a sophomore – we became committed (to winning) and about 12 games ago, we just decided ‘Refuse to Lose’ was what we were going to live by.
“We’ve never done this, setting the school record for victories and being a No. 1 seed (in the state tournament). This group here, it’s almost like they’re fearless. We’re going to go out there (in the postseason) and see what happens.”
Harvey felt that his team did not need to worry about scoreboard watching, it was just going to worry about what it could do itself.
“When we hit rock-bottom (this season), we suffered back-to-back losses and were 4-3, I think I was putting too much pressure on them and they were putting too much pressure on themselves,” Harvey stated. “We had a team meeting, things really broke down and then we just decided: You know what? We’re not going to worry about it. We’re not going to worry about anyone else. We’re just going to play it game by game. We’ve just got to take care of business on our own end, and things will work out.”