Family trees and Fairweather friends

The Family School’s Jessica Fairweather dominates the early play against Tri-Valley


GRAHAMSVILLE, NY - Tri-Valley coach Karen Andrews would love to have this one back.

After watching her team catch fire in the fourth quarter with aggressive defense, steals and a flurry of scoring, the coach knew her team had lost a really winnable game against The Family School on December 19, despite the stellar play of Lady Family Falcon Jessica Fairweather, who looked unstoppable early on.

Fairweather’s early dominance, evinced by a quartet of three-pointers and a remarkable dexterity to handle the ball in the open floor, given her length, was truly impressive. With her game-high contribution of 16 points, she led the Lady Falcons to their sixth consecutive victory without a defeat. Prior victims included Hancock twice, Sacred Heart and Monticello.

The Family School’s defense, sparked by Fairweather’s blocks and fellow tall-tree Mary Schmeider’s fine play down low, shut Tri-Valley out in the second quarter while The Family School racked up 16 points to blow open a game that was very close for the first eight minutes of play.

Tri-Valley’s woes came from a spate of missed lay ups propelled by Lady Bears’ steals and outlet passes. As Andrews noted after the game, “We have to convert those lay ups if we’re going to be successful.”

The Family School features a number of returning players, including Schmeider, Kaitlyn Slicker and Bianca Eldorado. Their greatest asset is in senior Fairweather, who as a transfer student last fall wasn’t eligible to play basketball.

Fairweather came on to make a major impact in softball in the spring and this fall laid claim to the goal in soccer. It is clear, however, that basketball is her main suit.

A gifted player who can shoot the three, elevate to the rim and block shots on defense, Fairweather makes The Lady Falcons a difficult team to defend. That said, Andrews and company figured it out, albeit all too late, as they double-teamed Fairweather in the second half every time she touched the ball.

With the feisty defense of Miranda Benevides and Sklylar Musa to contend with, Fairweather turned the ball over a number of times and failed to score. That allowed the Lady Bears to work their way back from a 16-point third-quarter deficit with inspired late play by Erin Beach, Jakki Pugh and Benevides. The latter had a trio of consecutive steals and lay ups.

The Lady Bears trailed 11-9 after the first quarter, but nine turnovers and the aforementioned missed lay-ups were the real story. The Family School had trouble handling the ball early too. They coughed it up six times in each of the first two quarters. Tri-Valley lost it five times in the second frame.

The Lady Falcons got six points from Slicker in the second quarter to add to Fairweather’s eight that included her third and fourth treys fired back to back, a feat that had the Tri-Valley Crazies going crazier.

The Family School took a 27-9 lead into the half, following their shut down of the Lady Bears, who looked more intense and focused as they exited the locker room for the start of the third quarter.

Getting off the mat, they outscored the Lady Falcons 12-10 in the third frame but still trailed 37-21 entering the fourth quarter. Working well at both ends of the floor, Tri-Valley furiously sought to cut the lead to get within striking distance.

Kanacia James stepped up her defense, as did the rest of the Lady Bears. But once again, Tri-Valley’s inability to finish on easy shots cost them key points. The Family School (6-0) got only eight points in the final frame, but it was enough to keep their distance as they ended up with a 45-33 win over Tri-Valley (1-3).

Benevides led the Lady Bears with eight points. Gretchen Hartman and James had six apiece. Eighth grader Jakki Pugh had five, all of which were scored in the second half.

In addition to Fairweather’s 16, the Lady Falcons got 10 from Slicker and six from Schmeider, but registered seven players in the scoring column.

Coach Carlton Williams will no doubt have his girls taking practice from the charity stripe as they canned only one of eight attempts. Tri-Valley hit five-for-11.

Look for both teams to continue their improvement as the season progresses. Given their size and Fairweather’s presence, the Lady Falcons should be a force to reckon with in Class D.

As for Tri-Valley, the Class C wars will be far more daunting, but with a ton of youthful talent and some strong veteran leadership, don’t count the Bears out by any means.

TRR photo by Richard A. Ross
The Family School’s Jessica Fairweather (45) creates mayhem from beyond the arc as she shoots over Tri-Valley’s Skylar Musa. (Click for larger version)
TRR photo by Richard A. Ross
Tri-Valley eighth grader Jakki Pugh harries Fairweather in the second half as the Lady Bears applied better defense to The Family School’s best weapon. (Click for larger version)
TRR photo by Richard A. Ross
Tri-Valley’s Miranda Benevides (10), below right, looks to receive the ball down low as she is guarded by Lady Falcon Adanna Greb (32). (Click for larger version)