Minster defeated Fort Loramie on Saturday to win a Division IV regional title. Greg Billing/CONTRIBUTED

Girls basketball: Minster tops rival Fort Loramie to reach final four

The two towns know each other well being separated by about three miles along State Route 66. They’re even closer on the basketball court with a regular-season game every year and a postseason meeting every few years, it seems.

“You know the game is going to be physical. It’s going to be up-tempo and it’s going to be in your face because it’s Minster vs. Fort Loramie,” Minster coach Mike Wiss said of the expectations when the two teams meet.

Few things could make a trip to the Division IV state semifinals even better. Beating your rival to get there is one of them, though. And that’s what Minster did Saturday night, riding a 13-0 run to open the third quarter for a 44-28 victory for the D-IV regional championship.

Two years ago Minster (24-3) lost in the regional semifinals to Fort Loramie (22-6). Last year Minster lost to Jackson Center in the regional final. Both games were played at Vandalia Butler’s Student Activity Center, just like Saturday’s game.

“Get past this gym, that’s what we were looking forward to,” said Minster senior Taylor Kogge. “Moving on to the big one.”

The big one is the D-IV state tournament at Ohio State University’s Jerome Schottenstein Center. Minster, ranked No. 4 in the final Associated Press state poll, plays No. 1 Waterford in the state semifinals 3 p.m. Thursday. The winner plays for the state championship 10:45 a.m. Saturday.

This is Minster’s first trip to state since 2010 and fourth overall. Fort Loramie was looking for its first trip since 2015 when the Redskins won it all.

“It’s sweet because you know you have to work so hard to get it,” Wiss said. “It’s sweeter because it’s Loramie.

“A lot of respect for (Fort Loramie coach) Carla Siegel for what Loramie is and what they do. Hats off to them for an outstanding season. Hats off to our girls because they worked their tails off. It’s a credit to Division IV basketball in our area.”

A taller and more experienced Minster team took an 18-16 lead into halftime. Staying close gave Fort Loramie a confidence boost for the second half. But that boost soon came crashing down.

Minster bolted to a 31-16 lead over the next five minutes and never let the lead dip below double digits again. Junior Demaris Wolf scored six of those 13 points. Minster’s inside presence of senior Taylor Kogge and junior Courtney Prenger – a pair of 6-foot-2 post players – combined for six points as well.

Kogge missed Thursday’s regional semifinal to rest a tailbone she injured early in the season taking a charge. She aggravated the injury in the Wildcats’ district final win.

“I sat there in warm-ups and I said, this is it. I’m ready,” said Kogge, who scored six points. “I’ve never felt better. Just to be back on the court with everyone – it was tough being on the bench – but getting to play with them another time and especially advancing warms my heart.”

Prenger and Wolf both scored 12 points to lead Minster. Freshman Ivy Wolf added eight.

“The third quarter was really big for us,” said Prenger, who scored six of her points in that quarter. “We couldn’t let them think they could get back in the game.”

Fort Loramie never did. The Redskins opened the third with six straight turnovers and had 32 in the game. Minster had 17 overall.

“In the second half Minster showed what Minster is made of and we didn’t respond very well,” Siegel said. “We just lost it there and we never got it back.

“It’s a big-time game and it’s a lot of pressure. We tried to keep practice the last two days light. Don’t make this game bigger than what it is. … Experience is something that’s awesome and we don’t have a lot of tournament experience with this team. That definitely showed.”

Sophomore Marissa Meiring led Fort Loramie with 10 points. No other Redskins player had more than five.

On Dec. 23 Fort Loramie was sitting at 5-4 and trying to find its identity. One of those losses was 35-26 to Minster. Back then a regional final appearance would have surprised Siegel. But the Redskins won 17 of their next 18 games to reach Saturday’s championship game.

“I’m overjoyed that we played tonight. It’s a wonderful accomplishment for this team,” Siegel said. “They’re upset right now and they’re sad. But a week from now we’ll all sit back and say what a heck of a good year we had.”