Girls basketball: Stout defense powers Fairmont past Wayne in GWOC showdown

Fairmont’s Madeline Westbeld puts up a shot during Wednesday night’s game vs. Wayne at Trent Arena. Eric Frantz/CONTRIBUTED
Fairmont’s Madeline Westbeld puts up a shot during Wednesday night’s game vs. Wayne at Trent Arena. Eric Frantz/CONTRIBUTED

A shocking loss led to a stunning victory.

Four days after a disappointing 60-51 defeat to visiting Cincinnati Mercy-McAuley, Fairmont ran its win streak to two with a dominating 54-34 victory over Wayne on Wednesday in a highly anticipated meeting of Greater Western Ohio Conference powers at Trent Arena.

Fairmont, which beat defending Division II state champion Carroll on Monday and is ranked No. 8 in the Associated Press Division I state poll, improves to 17-2 overall and moves into a first place tie atop the GWOC National Division with Wayne (both 9-1). The Warriors, ranked No.2 in the D-I state poll, drop to 17-2.

Wayne won the first meeting 51-49 on Dec. 7.

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The schools figure to be the top two seeds when Sunday’s sectional tournament draw is released.

“We’re really good when we’re playing defense and contesting shots and I thought we did a really good job of that in the first half,” Fairmont head coach Jeremy Finn said. “At halftime we made just a little bit of an adjustment because we felt they were getting to the rack, but overall a solid job by our girls. They did a great job defending.”

“(Our defense) was a result of the relentless energy we had all week,” Fairmont senior and Notre Dame recruit Madeline Westbeld said. “Especially coming off a loss. We were in that mode and we weren’t going to get out of it.”

Holding Carroll to its lowest output of the season (47-33 win) on Monday, the Firebirds did the same to high-octane Wayne. The Warriors, who average 66 points per game, were held under 43 for the first time this season.

Fairmont led 13-5 after the first quarter, 29-14 at halftime and 41-25 entering the fourth.

“I thought some of the reaches they got away with early kept us from being aggressive and driving against their zone, which is what we needed to do,” Wayne head coach Travis Trice said. “We held the ball too much.”

»RELATED: Wednesday’s high school roundup, scores

Said Finn: “We play a 1-2-2 zone and we can do some different things with it.”

Westbeld, a 6-foot-3 forward and fellow senior Madison Bartley, a 6-4 forward headed to Belmont University, anchor the last line of Fairmont’s defense. They’re formidable.

“We knew we had to stop Bree (Hall), Nyla (Hampton) and Alissa (Hargrove-Hall),” Westbeld said. “Our focus was to not let them get any 3s and to not let Bree get to the basket.”

Hall, a 6-foot junior guard and the GWOC’s second leading scorer, was held to 12 points. She averages 21. Hargrove-Hall added nine points and Hampton notched five.

“That’s the first game all year that I felt like we didn’t play well at all,” Trice said. “They got on top of us early and we didn’t respond. We didn’t play with focus.”

Westbeld led all scorers with 15 points, while Bartley had 14. Fairmont seniors Kierra Thornton and Kyndall Ketterer added 10 and nine points, respectively.

Fairmont and Wayne are part of the 20-team Southwest District North sectional, which feeds three D-I district semifinal brackets played at Troy and Butler high schools. The district finals will be held Feb. 29 at Princeton High School.

Centerville and Springboro (GWOC National Division champion) figure to round out a stacked top four seeds come Sunday. Bellbrook and Beavercreek headline the next wave of challengers.

“Our Southwest District in Dayton is really, really strong,” Finn said. “Whoever comes out of our three brackets has a great shot to win it all.”

Said Westbeld: “That’s what makes it so fun. It’s so competitive. We’ll take whatever comes at us.”