Improving Skyhawks to test defending champs

Game 19  JAN 17 MON 6:45 pm  Fairborn Skyhawks vs. Hathaway Brown Blazers

By Dave Mast

What at first glance might seem like a bit of an edge for Hathaway Brown becomes intriguing because this will be Hathaway Brown’s second game in the Classic in 24 hours. The big question is, can the Blazers recover in time to face an up-and-coming team in Fairborn, which finished 18-4 last season and a bonafide star and talented depth?

Fairborn head coach Steve Hannaford has turned around a struggling program in his three years there, going 10-11 and 14-8 before watching his youthful Skyhawks explode onto the scene last season.

Jaymee Veney, a force to be reckoned with inside, averaged almost 12 points and 12 rebounds per contest last season and has averaged 10 rebounds per year since her freshman season. Veney, who is headed for St. Francis University in New York next season, made life miserable for more than a few guards who tried their luck at driving the lane. She is far from the only player on this Fairborn team. She is joined by highly touted sophomore Alexis Gassion, and Brooklyn Pumroy, both of whom can fill it up on any given night. Gassion is an athletic wing player, while Pumroy is a versatile junior point guard who OGBR director Tom Jenkins lists in the top five point guards in the junior class in Ohio.

Returning from a knee injury is 5-10 senior Candice Alexander, who was one of Hannaford’s top scorers as a sophomore, as well as senior Sarah Lilley, both of whom suffered ACL injuries in lost junior campaigns. Chelsea Reed, Amanda Gladney, Brianna Breeding and Madison Musick are the other three seniors who have made up a solid core of talent which has played together since the third grade.

“We’re working hard to get better every day,” said Hannaford. “This group of seniors along with Brooklyn has played together for so long. They know each other and know the game. It’s an athletic group that loves to get after it on  the floor, and because of our depth, we can play all-out when we want to.”

With expectations continuing to soar as Hannaford’s team blossoms and his program gains momentum, rumblings of challenges to top teams in the state don’t matter to the Skyhawks. “You can’t buy into all the hype,” said Hannaford.  “It takes a lot of hard work and some luck — we feel like we paid our dues with the injury bug last year with Candice and Sarah — so we’ll just keep approaching each day like we want to keep getting better.”

“It’s a game of the defending champions in Div. II against a top challenger from Dayton in the Div. I ranks,” said Jenkins. “Those kids from Fairborn can present a real problem for Hathaway Brown. This contest is really going to be a test for Hathaway Brown’s depth and conditioning, with them coming off of what should be a really tough game a day earlier against Lakota East.”