Girls’ Basketball team believes third time is the charm

Head varsity coach Tim Cogan gives a pep talk to Fairmonts girls varsity basketball team. (Photo by: Rachel Sheidler)

Head varsity coach Tim Cogan gives a pep talk to Fairmont’s girls varsity basketball team. (Photo by: Rachel Sheidler)

With the Fairmont winter sports teams on the brink of season play, the buzz around Kettering, of course, is the high expectations for the Fairmont Girls’ Basketball team.

The consistently high level of performance is what makes this team stand out. The girls finished 4th in the state in 2010 and had back-to-back 2nd place finishes in 2011 and 2012. In those three years, the team compiled a record of 72 wins and only 9 losses. This team hasn’t lost a GWOC Central Division game since 2009. They are defending district champions since 2009 and have the only three state tournament appearances in school history.

“We have been very fortunate to be so close to a state title the last two years, and this season we are striving for nothing less than a state title,” said Head Coach Tim Cogan. “The girls value winning, and they don’t settle for less. Their focus is extremely sharp.”

A factor contributing to the team’s success has been the low turnover on the varsity squad. The team has only lost five seniors to graduation in the last three seasons combined. That means many of the girls have been playing together on varsity since their freshman year.

The 2012-13 varsity roster reveals that youth continues to be a factor, with only two seniors, captains Alona Skipper and Chelsea Welch. They’re joined by seven juniors and three sophomores.

“I expect to win and I would accept nothing less,” said Skipper. “We have been very successful, but you can ask any girl — we haven’t been as successful as we want to be.”

Skipper holds the Fairmont Girls’ Basketball record for most 3-pointers in a season (63), while Welch has the record for most assists in a game (12), steals in a game (8) and steals in a season (84). Junior Kathryn Westbeld is already in the Firebird record book for most rebounds in a game (21) and most rebounds in a season (275). She also has earned the highest field-goal percentage in a season (62 percent).

The other juniors on the varsity squad this year are Emma Havener, Danielle Newell, Sarah O’Malley, Emily Pacenta, Dani Shafer and Makayla Waterman. The sophomores are Lindsay Breslin, Alyssa Clemente and Shea Morgan.

When many of these girls made the jump from middle school basketball to high school basketball, they found themselves playing in the state finals as freshmen. “It was definitely an honor and a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” said Westbeld.

Competing and achieving at such a high level brings new experiences that most underclassmen wouldn’t expect to have. Every girl on the runner-up state team last year is back for this year and ready to compete.

“The season is intense during the regular season, but once the state tournament begins, it gets kicked up,” said Morgan. “Getting to state was an amazing feeling, and the girls and I want to do whatever we can to contribute for a team win.”

The players knew the expectations for Fairmont Girls’ Basketball even as they were coming up through the middle school ranks. “The honor to play for Fairmont Girls’ Basketball is awesome – just the fact you get to play for a program that has been strong for so many years,” said Pacenta. “Also, I was really excited to play for Coach Cogan.”

The players put a lot of pressure on themselves to compete at a high level. They know the prestige and history of the program in the last 10 years. From one girl to the next, it’s clear that they do not want to be the team that doesn’t meet those expectations.

“I always have high expectations of our team,” said Westbeld. “And because of the past couple years of success, we know we have a target on our backs.”

Coach Cogan knows the target and burden he carries to every game when Fairmont girls play anywhere. “It is a really great feeling knowing that anywhere we go in the state – and even sometimes out of state – teams know who Kettering Fairmont is,” said Cogan.

The girls open their season at Trotwood-Madison on Nov. 28 and don’t play at Trent Arena until their fourth game, which is on Dec. 5 against Miamisburg. Cogan and the girls recognize it’s a long haul from the start of the season to the state finals, but they’re keeping their eyes on the prize.

In the state title games the past two years, the Fairmont girls were only outscored in two out of eight quarters. While it’s an impressive statistic, it still wasn’t good enough to bring home a championship trophy. “We have played good games, but we need to play the best four quarters possible,” said Cogan. “Any coach knows you have to have some luck to win big games and we have struggled a little with both.”

This year, Cogan believes it will be different when it comes to the “big game” and the girls know what they have to do. “We just want to bring a state championship back home,” said Cogan.