Girls basketball: Top-ranked Fort Loramie cruises to state title game

Redskins will face McDonald in Division IV championship game Saturday at UD Arena

When Fort Loramie girls basketball coach Carla Siegel makes a substitution, it doesn’t make her nervous.

When her team is missing easy shots and battling nerves in the first quarter of the Division IV state semifinals against Convoy Crestview, it doesn’t make her nervous.

Siegel says she has six or seven starters and isn’t afraid to play any of her top eight at any point. So when the Redskins were leading only 10-9 late in the first quarter … she wasn’t nervous.

But her players were. They were supposed to play in this game last year. When they finished lunch at Culver’s in Marysville on their way to Columbus, they got on the bus. That’s when Siegel told them the state tournament had just been canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“A lot of the nerves were carried over,” said Fort Loramie senior Kenzie Hoelscher. “On the way here it finally kicked in: ‘We’re playing at the state tournament.’ But everyone did a really good job of calming down their nerves and finishing out the first half.”

Loramie (28-1) suddenly looked like the top-ranked team in the state they’ve been all season. In the final 58 seconds of the first quarter, Dana Rose hit a 3-pointer, Clara Gephart made a jumper in the lane and Ava Sholtis followed in a missed shot at the buzzer. The lead was 17-9, and by the middle of the second quarter Loramie led 34-14.

Loramie didn’t let up, started making easy shots and difficult ones and defeated Crestview 66-24 Thursday at UD Arena to advance to their first state final since 2015 when they won their second title.

“They’ve heard me say it like eight million times in their career,” Siegel said. “That top corner, if you hit that, the ball goes in almost 99 percent of the time. I think the nerves were there, and I knew that we would come out of it.”

Loramie will face McDonald (23-2) at 10:45 a.m. Saturday at UD in the state final. McDonald defeated Waterford 57-29 in Thursday’s second semifinal. The Redskins stayed to watch with last year’s missed opportunity still driving them.

“We used that as a fire in our bellies, and that can give us a little bit more determination to go out and finish what we didn’t get to last year,” Hoelscher said.

Rose led Loramie with 22 points, Hoelscher had 12 and Corynn Heitkamp had 10. Sholtis and Colleen Brandewie scored six points apiece off the bench and combined for eight rebounds and seven assists.

“Everybody puts five great players on the floor in the state tournament,” Siegel said. “When you can rely on your bench, it’s an added bonus when you can go eight deep and not lose anything on offense or defense.”

Defense also kickstarted the Redskins and calmed their nerves. They forced 16 turnovers in the first half, 24 for the game and scored 34 points off those turnovers. Crestview made only three of 20 shots in the second half and shot 30.6 % for the game.

“We thought our defense would cause them some problems,” Siegel said. “I wasn’t expecting it to cause that many problems.”

Loramie’s long history of success during the past 22 years under Siegel means there are no secrets of what to expect. Crestview coach Mark Gregory ran down the scouting report as he discussed what happened in the game.

“They’re a buzzsaw – they just have so many nice pieces,” he said. “They play so hard, they’re long, they defend well, they move the basketball so well, rebound. And those are the things we knew we had to do. We had to play almost a perfect game to win this today.”

Loramie didn’t have to be perfect. They just had to calm down and do what the scouting report says.

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