Spent and dabbing blood from his face, Kellan Bochenek looked every bit the warrior he vowed to be. However, missing was the subject of his motivation.
“I just wanted to play as hard as I could for my team,” the Fairmont senior said, blinking back tears. “I wanted to play for my friend that I lost.”
Rocked by the death of a former teammate just hours before, Fairmont posted the most challenging win in its boys basketball program history, overcoming a flood of emotions to defeat Wayne 51-43 in a delayed Division I boys high school basketball sectional final at Centerville on Monday night.
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Much of the capacity crowd – students and spectators from both schools – was adorned in yellow T-shirts with “FIREBIRD STRONG” emblazoned across the front and perched on top of the Fairmont logo. That was a tribute to suicide prevention and the Fairmont student, whose attempted suicide on Saturday became a fatal on Monday afternoon.
Chief Screen Printing & Production in Kettering supplied the T-shirts and Fairmont Career Technology Center students made similar buttons on the school’s button press machine on Monday. They were everywhere at the game, including neatly tied yellow ribbons.
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The Dayton Daily News is not naming the student.
“It’s been a difficult couple of days with our community and especially (Monday) with our students,” Fairmont athletic director Chris Weaver said. “It came across the announcements (Monday) at 1:15 and you can imagine what that does to kids inside a school building. We had tremendous support from counselors from Centerville and Beavercreek and Oakwood who were in the building (Monday) to help support us.”
The game originally was scheduled to be played last Saturday. The Southwest District postponed it following Fairmont’s request, which was seconded by Wayne’s administration.
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Fairmont (17-8) will take a three-game win streak into one of four D-I district finals and is matched against Greater Miami Conference champion Lakota East (19-5) at 7 p.m. Saturday at the University of Dayton Arena.
Bochenek, a 6-foot-4 workhorse for the Firebirds who’s effective around the basket and has good long-range touch, tallied a game-high 24 points. He hit three 3-pointers and had nine points in the fourth quarter, often answering as Wayne closed.
Fairmont sub Caleb Hall was the Firebirds’ next highest scorer with seven points. Leading scorer Ryan Hall had just six points and one field goal and starting guard Andre O’Daniel didn’t return after a midgame knee injury.
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None of that came into play as Fairmont raced to a 29-11 halftime lead to the relief of coach Blair Albright.
“I wasn’t sure if it was going to be insurmountable or if we were going to be OK,” he said. “Our guys rose to the occasion and I’m just so proud of them for giving our community something to cheer about in a time that’s been really difficult.”
Wayne (14-10) closed to within three with 2:15 left after consecutive Ronnie Hampton buckets. Fairmont answered with Anthony Johnson’s only field goal and five consecutive free throws, including four by Bochenek.
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Hampton led Wayne with 22 points and Rashad McKee added 11 in their final game was Warriors.
The teams split during the regular season, Wayne winning by 20 at home.
After the game, hugs were long and meaningful among Fairmont players and students, who spilled onto the floor to celebrate. Fairmont coaches and students went overdrive on Twitter with #ketteringstrong salutes to suicide prevention and a nod to Fairmont’s success. Albright posted a photo of a card given to him and signed by Wayne coaches, players and cheerleaders.
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Bochenek was relentless against Wayne and it showed. He’ll celebrate his birthday on Tuesday with six new stitches next to his nose to go with a D-I sectional title.
“The locker room was different, but once we stepped on the floor we were ready to play and win,” he said, gaze fixed downward. “I just wanted to do this for the community and my team.”
HOW TO GET HELP: Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or chat online with a trained professional at suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat
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