Girls’ Basketball team reloads and proves its worth with 4-1 start

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Photo: Lily Condron

Junior Celeste Etter drives through two Troy defenders for a layup.

By Laith Rashdan, The Flyer Staff

If anyone thought the Fairmont Varsity Girls’ Basketball team would struggle after a couple of nationally recognized players graduated last year, they weren’t paying attention to the younger talent on the team.

Makayla Waterman (now at Ohio State) and Kathryn Westbeld (Notre Dame) were mainstays for the team for four years, but they were lost to graduation along with five other players. Last year’s team went 23-3 and made it to the regional semifinals. In the three years before that, the team went to State, winning the championship in 2013.

Despite the turnover in players, the 2014-15 team is off to a tremendous start. After five games, they are 4-1, and the only loss was a 2-point loss to Bedford North Lawrence (Ind.), a team that was ranked No. 8 in the nation at the time.

New faces, new roles, big goals

One person who isn’t surprised by the girls’ early success this season is their coach, Lacy Romine. She has high expectations for her Firebirds.

“It will be a very successful regular season,” Romine said. “We have some seniors who have some big goals. Ultimately. the goal is to get back to state.”

Romine acknowledged that transitions are difficult, and losing 7 seniors is big.

“We have a lot of new faces, a lot of young players,” the coach said. “But that’s exciting. Right now, our transition process is a lot of teaching and getting them experienced at the varsity level.”

Three veterans who are helping with that process are senior co-captains Lindsay Breslin, Alyssa Clemente and Shea Morgan. Romine describes her coaching style as intense, and it seems to have rubbed off on her captains and other players.

“I expect us to play hard and to turn people’s heads,” Morgan said. “We’re going to show people that we’re better than they think we are.”

Morgan added that the team chemistry is being built rather quickly with all the new players.

“We’re a young and new team, and there are going to be things that we need to pick up on over time,” she said. “But we’re clicking pretty quickly.”

In the second game of the season, a convincing 71-40 win over Miamisburg, Morgan came up big for the Birds. She led the team with 18 points and pulled in 13 rebounds as well. Morgan is currently ranked 8th in GWOC for rebounding, averaging 8.8 boards per game. She also averages 11.2 points per game, ranking 15th in GWOC.

Torn ACL sidelines senior

Unfortunately, the Birds may be without one of their biggest leaders on the team. Breslin, a guard, went down with a knee injury early in the Bedford North Lawrence game. Tests have revealed a torn ACL.

“That’s a big loss for us,” Romine said. “Lindsay was our starting point guard and one of the best senior leaders I’ve ever seen. Not having her on the floor definitely sets us back a little bit.”

While Breslin’s playing status is uncertain, her confidence in her team’s ability to succeed isn’t. She says this year’s team has its own identity, separate from the 2013-14 team.

“We’re just as talented, but in a different way,” Breslin said. “That was a different team and we played with a different style. That’s what happens with each new year; you have to change. And change can be really good, and I think that change is going to be really good for us.”

Alyssa Clemente, senior and captain of the team, also is confident in the team.

“We started out really strong and we’re playing well as a team, so I think we’ll just keep getting better as the season goes on,” she said.

Clemente describes the teams style of play as fast.

“We’re really fast-paced. We try to get down the court as fast as we can and run on teams because we’re in good shape,” she said.

In their most recent game against Piqua, Clemente led the team in scoring with 23 points and was 9 of 16 from the field. She also added 4 assists to her total. Through 5 games, Clemente is tied for first in assists in GWOC, averaging 4 per game. She is also ranked 6th in GWOC in scoring, averaging 15.4 points per game.

Other standouts include junior guard Celeste Etter, who averages 13.2 points per game and shoots an astounding 59.3 percent from 3-point range. And senior center DeChelle Roe recently scored 14 points and pulled down 10 rebounds against Piqua.

Heading in the right direction

Despite changes on the team, Romine seems confident that the team will be able to repeat the success they had last year.

“It’s our ultimate goal is to get back to the state tournament, a Final 4 appearance” the coach said. “I think thats everybody’s ultimate goal, and we’ve got the kids who are able to do it.”

While the Birds are only a few games into the season, Romine says she sees a lot of things heading in the right direction.

“Leadership is a big thing. We have a few players with a lot of varsity experience, so they’re able to bring that to the table,” Romine said. “I’m seeing a lot of really good things that are going to help us later in the year. A lot of kids are coming into their own and playing how we need them to play and embracing their role on the varsity team.”

The Birds are off to a hot start, and Romine feels very optimistic about the team.

“This is a pretty special group we have,” said Romine.