VANDALIA – On paper, it appeared that the Fort Loramie Lady Redskins would be defending their Division 4 state title and making their fourth straight appearance in the state final four this weekend in Columbus.
After all, Loramie had posted a pair of wins over regional final opponent Jackson Center during County play this season by a total of 36 points, including a 47-26 home victory on Feb. 4.
But, like the old saying goes, games are decided on the court, not on paper, and the Lady Tigers took control of the contest early and, after the Lady Redskins gained the lead in the fourth quarter, they finished the game with a 14-4 run to post a stunning 43-35 upset win in the regional finals Saturday night at Vandalia.
Jackson improved to 21-7 on the year and will be making its third appearance in the state tournament after winning titles in 1995 and 2001. They will face Fostoria St. Wendelin in the semifinals on Friday at 3 p.m. at Ohio State’s Schottenstein Center.
Fort Loramie sees its season end at 23-5.
The Lady Tigers will attempt to match Fort Loramie’s accomplishment last year, winning both the D-4 volleyball and girls basketball state titles. Jackson Center won the volleyball crown back in November.
Nicole Fogt single-handedly gave Jackson a good start as two baskets and two free throws from the senior forward put the Lady Tigers up 6-1 five minutes into the game. After Olivia Quinter scored the Lady Redskins’ first basket at the 2:32 mark, Fogt answered with a three to make it 9-3.
“We needed to get off to a good start to have a chance and Nicole gave us just that,” said Jackson Center head coach Scott Doseck. “She scored our first nine, but she didn’t force things and that allowed our other seniors to take it from there.”
“We couldn’t get going in that first quarter, or in the first half, for that matter,” said Loramie coach Carla Siegel. “Jackson hit four three-pointers to take control and that’s not like our defense.”
Jessica Boerger, though, hit two foul shots with just over a minute left and then connected on a three in the closing seconds to trim Loramie’s deficit to just one heading into the second quarter.
But back came the Lady Tigers as they pushed the lead back up to nine with an 8-0 burst, including a layup and a three by Pauline Meyer. They were still up seven on a Cassie Meyer triple before a Katy Hoying basket and a Boerger foul shot cut Loramie’s deficit to just 20-16 at halftime.
The Lady Tigers shot 41 percent from the field in the first half, including a sizzling 4 for 5 from three-point range. The Redskins shot 26 percent overall and were 2 for 5 from behind the arc.
Three Holly Frey free throws in the opening two minutes of the third quarter drew Loramie to within three before a Christen Ware layup and another three from Pauline Meyer stretched the Jackson lead back to 27-19. And despite scoring just two points over the final 5:41 of the period, the Lady Tigers looked to be in command, up 29-22 heading into the fourth quarter.
But the Lady Redskins had other ideas as after a Reyan Frey three opened the stanza, a Holly Frey jumper and two foul shots from the senior forward tied the game with 5:53 remaining. Boerger then hit two free throws to cap off an 11-0 run, 9-0 to start the final period, and give Loramie its first lead of the night at 31-29 at the 4:55 mark.
But just when it looked like the Lady Redskins had momentum on their side, Jackson quickly took it right back in the span of 26 seconds.
Cassie Meyer tied the game with a putback and was fouled on the play. Meyer missed the foul shot, but in Loramie’s attempt to save the rebound from going out of bounds, Olivia Clark came up with the ball, was fouled on the shot and made two free throws to give the Lady Tigers the lead for good at 33-31.
“I knew that Loramie would make a run,” said Doseck. “We did a good job of responding to that, and Peyton took over down the stretch.”
“When we got the two-point lead, I thought we were on our way,” said Siegel. “We had them where we wanted them and we just needed to take care of the ball, but we didn’t do a good job of that.”
Fogt extended the margin to four with a driving layup, only to see Taylor Gasson answer with a jumper at the top of the key with 2:47 left.
The advantage was still two until Esser connected on a jumper in the lane — her only field goal of the game — and two foul shots to give Jackson a 39-33 lead with a minute left. The Lady Tigers then sealed the victory by hitting four of six free throws the rest of the way.
Jackson shot 40 percent from the floor for the game, including 5 of 7 three-pointers, and made 14 of 19 foul shots. Loramie struggled badly from the field, shooting 20 percent overall, inclding 3 for 15 on three-point attempts. The Lady Redskins were 14 of 18 from th eline.
Loramie forced 22 turnovers while committing 19, but only led in points off turnovers 14-12.
“The girls got the job done tonight,” said Doseck. “I knew that we had the athletes to make a run in the tournament, especially with their success in volleyball, but we had to make some improvements in their basketball skills and they’ve come a long way.”
“The shots just didn’t fall for us,” said Siegel. “We always pride ourselves on defense because if the offense isn’t clicking, you’re usually still going to be in the game. That’s been our thing the past couple of games. Our offense hasn’t been strong but our defense has been stronger. But Jackson made their shots and we couldn’t come up with an answer. We were a step slow all night.
“I wish Jackson the best of luck next week at state,” added the Loramie coach. “I hope they finish the job that we weren’t able to.”
Fogt posted a double-double of 12 points and 11 rebounds to lead the way for the Lady Tigers. Cassie Meyer had 10, Esser nine and Pauline Meyer eight. Esser was 7 for 8 from the line.
Boerger, the two-time County Player of the Year, led the Lady Redskins with 15 points in her final high school game and Holly Frey had nine. But no other Loramie player had more than three.
Jackson Center (43) – P. Meyer 8, Esser 9, C. Meyer 10, Fogt 12, Clark 2, Ware 2.
Fort Loramie (35) – Gasson 2, Boerger 15, Hoying 2, H. Frey 9, R. Frey 3, Quinter 2, Brandewie 2.
Score by quarters:
Three-pointers: Jackson Center 5 (P. Meyer 2, C. Meyer 2, Fogt); Fort Loramie 3 (Boerger 2, R. Frey)
Records: Jackson Center 21-7, Fort Loramie 23-5.
JC’s next game: Friday, state semifinals at the Schottenstein Center in Columbus, 3 p.m. vs. Fostoria St. Wendelin (25-3).