PORTSMOUTH — Truth be told, the Portsmouth Lady Trojans are a good — yet youthful — basketball team.
With no seniors on the roster, and just junior Emily Cheatham and the remainder consisting of quality sophomores and freshmen —plus a highly-touted and much talked-about eighth-grade group coming up —the future of girls roundball is indeed bright for PHS.
As for the recent past, though, and most certainly the present on Thursday night inside Trojan Arena at Portsmouth High School, the Fairland Lady Dragons’ domination of the Ohio Valley Conference remains firm.
Fairland, the two-time defending conference champion including an outright OVC championship last season, scored the opening seven points —and scored at least 20 points in the opening three periods, en route to rolling the young Lady Trojans 87-45.
It was Portsmouth’s first loss in six games overall, and three in the OVC —as last Thursday’s matchup at South Point was postponed.
Fairland, which scored 26 points apiece in each of the middle two quarters, led 20-5 at the first stop —before doubling up the Lady Trojans 46-23 at halftime, and similarly 72-33 following three frames.
The Lady Dragons did press full court until the difference reached around 30, as the Ohio High School Athletic Association’s running clock rule took effect for the final 12 minutes and 37 seconds.
Tomi Hinkle — the returning all-Ohioan, Tiffin University commit and one of only two Lady Dragon seniors along with Reece Barnitz — hit a three-point goal to make it 59-27, and ultimately enforce the running clock.
Fairland’s 44-point advantage at 87-43 with 43 seconds remaining marked its largest, as the defending Division III regional runner-up — and now an anticipated Division II regional title contender — raised its perfect records to 5-0 and 4-0.
Within the past decade, only 2015 and 2016 and 2020 did the Lady Dragons not win at least a share of the OVC championship, as Coal Grove won it outright in the 2019-20 campaign.
Thursday’s runaway win stretched their OVC win streak to 27 —with Fairland’s last league loss being by a single point (53-52) at Coal Grove on Jan. 7, 2021.
And, honestly, given what the Lady Dragons did to the Lady Trojans —it’s highly unlikely they see serious challenges again this year.
Indeed, Fairland is youthful like Portsmouth — but it has size, speed, athleticism, experience, length, awareness, good basketball ability, and never attempted a three-point shot it didn’t like.
PHS head coach Amy Hughes knew — and knows — what the Lady Dragons were, and are, capable of.
“This is a good game for us to learn from,” said Hughes. “They (Fairland) have eight kids who play all the time because basketball is their favorite sport and they are a really good team. I thought we did some good things, and I thought our inside game with Savannah (Cantrell) came along at the end. But they can really shoot the ball.”
The Lady Dragons drilled a dozen triples, including four by Hinkle towards her 12 points —plus three from Bree Allen and her 18, and two apiece by Kamryn Barnitz (14 points) and Isa Taliaffero (10 points).
Taliferro is the tops of Fairland’s five freshmen, as Reece Barnitz bagged the other trifecta —while Kamryn Barnitz buried 2-of-2 free throws.
Allen’s 18 accrued through the first three quarters, and she meshed 5-of-5 free throws — as six-foot junior Kylee Bruce bucketed a game-high 22 points on 11 two-point goals.
A basket by Cheatham finally got the Lady Trojans on the scoreboard, but it was following two minutes and 52 seconds.
Savannah Cantrell split a pair of free throws with 4:35 left in the opening quarter, cutting the deficit to 7-3 —but the Lady Dragons, from there, were off and running and firing away at the rim.
Portsmouth never came any closer, and its only other first-period points were split foul shots by freshmen Sienna Allen (1:16) and KK Mays (4.4 seconds).
Allen’s only other points were a second-stanza field goal —as she injured her ankle with only 30 seconds remaining in the first half, and did not return.
Cheatham in the third quarter and sophomore standout Daysha Reid in the second both got knocked to the floor, but exited under their own power prior to returning.
“All of us will be fine by Monday,” said Hughes, when asked about the team’s health.
Three Lady Trojans tallied double figures — the six-foot and three-inch sophomore Cantrell with 13 points on six field goals and a split of free throws, Mays with 11 points on four field goals and 2-of-4 freebies, and Reid with 10 points on three field goals and 2-of-3 foul shots.
Reid with two and Mays with one made for the team’s three threes.
Cheatham had single field goals in quarters one, two and finally four, while Sydney Meadows made one in the second.
By game’s end, Hughes had her Lady Trojans turning their attention towards undefeated Rock Hill —and another key OVC clash on Monday.
The Redwomen sport the exact same records as Fairland.
It is also the first of an astounding eight consecutive road games for Portsmouth —which won’t play again inside Trojan Arena for an entire month (Jan. 9 vs. South Point).
The rescheduled game at South Point is set for Tuesday, Jan. 3.
As the Lady Trojans emerged from the home locker room, Hughes exhorted each girl to “keep your head up”.
“I just think we will get better, and we’re absolutely going to keep working, keep improving, keep our heads up and stay positive. We’re not going to stop working and we’re not going to stop fighting,” said the coach. “Fairland is a good team, but we will get better and we’re not going to stop getting better. Toughness and character, we’re building and it’s coming.”
* * *
Fairland 20 26 26 15— 87
Portsmouth 5 18 10 12 —45
FAIRLAND 87 (5-0, 4-0 OVC)
Taegan Leep 0 0-0 0, Isa Taliaferro 4 0-0 10, Addison Godby 2 0-0 4, Reece Barnitz 1 0-0 3, Bree Allen 5 5-5 18, Tomi Hinkle 4 0-0 12, Kamryn Barnitz 5 2-3 14, Bailey Russell 2 0-0 4, Kylee Bruce 11 0-0 22; TOTALS 34 7-8 87; Three-point field goals: 12 (Tomi Hinkle 4, Bree Allen 3, Isa Taliaferro and Kamryn Barnitz 2 apiece, Reece Barnitz 1)
PORTSMOUTH 45 (5-1, 2-1 OVC)
Emily Cheatham 3 0-0 6, Sienna Allen 1 1-2 3, Daysha Reid 3 2-3 10, Ayonna Carr 0 0-0 0, KK Mays 4 2-4 11, Sydney Meadows 1 0-0 2, Katie Ankrom 0 0-0 0, Savannah Cantrell 6 1-2 13; TOTALS 18 6-11 45; Three-point field goals: 3 (Daysha Reid 2, KK Mays 1)