Boys tourney: Fairmont’s emotional run ends with district final loss

An unlikely tourney journey Fairmont’s boys basketball team went on that eased the loss of one of their own ended on Saturday night.

Fairmont, shaken by the recent death of a former teammate, took on the hope of a grieving school community and played for a boys high school basketball district Division I district championship at the University of Dayton Arena, one of four such games.

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The nightmare circumstances - yet in other ways emotionally charged postseason run - ended with a 50-36 setback to superior Lakota East.

Just 24 hours before, Fairmont students, former teammates, school administrators, teachers and many more attended a final public showing for the deceased Fairmont student, who died after attempting suicide.

The Dayton Daily News is not naming the deceased student.

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“It’s been amazing,” reflected Fairmont senior leader Ryan Hall. “It’s not so much of a school anymore, it’s a whole family. Especially our team and coaches. It’s been a brotherhood. It’s more than basketball to us now.”

Of course it is. Basketball was the wrapping around a life lesson for anyone connected with the Silver, Blue and White. Fairmont coach Blair Albright said as much as the Firebirds huddled one final time deep in an arena locker room.

“I told our guys to be disappointed about the game and be heartbroken about the other stuff,” Albright said. “You should never let an athletic contest or result break your heart. They found out there are much bigger things in life that are worthy of breaking your heart.

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“You can be disappointed about this result, but they’ll realize years from now that the bond they created through these last couple weeks is something they’ll carry forever.”

As they have all season, seniors Kellan Bochenek (15 points) and Hall (10) led Fairmont (17-9).

East (20-5), out of the Greater Miami Conference, moves on to play defending D-I state champ Cincinnati Moeller (25-0) in a D-I regional semifinal at Xavier University’s Cintas Center at 6:15 p.m. Wednesday. Centerville (21-5) will play Springfield (17-9) at 8 p.m.

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Already reeling on the court, Fairmont entered the postseason lugging a three-game losing skid after Greater Western Ohio Conference National East losses to Centerville, Springfield and Beavercreek. Then playoff magic gripped the Firebirds.

Franklin fell first, then Butler, which owned a 20-2 regular season. Wayne was next in a delayed district semifinal following the attempted suicide. Regrouped, Fairmont responded with an emotional 51-43 win.

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There would be no more playoff magic remaining for East. Although Fairmont trailed by just three at halftime, the Firebirds struggled throughout and had no consistent answer for the Thunderhawks.

Fairmont’s fate had played out, the Firebirds just didn’t know it.

“I did have some fear if at some point we would hit an emotional wall,” Albright said. “I don’t know if that’s what happened. What I do know for sure is we got out-played. To be honest, I think they’re just emotionally spent, which is understandable.”

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