RUSSIA — Fort Loramie may have had the Shelby County Athletic League title wrapped up, but that didn’t deter Russia’s goals of knocking off the Redskins on Thursday.
After a close first three quarters, Russia held Fort Loramie scoreless for nearly the last nine minutes to earn a 47-35 win at Clair C. Naveau Gymnasium.
Fort Loramie (16-5) finishes in first place in the SCAL, while Russia (17-5) was second at 10-2. The Raiders lost to Fort Loramie 29-23 on Jan. 6.
“I think we were a lot more prepared this time,” Russia junior Laurissa Poling said. “Even though we couldn’t get County this time, Loramie has always been a big rival for us, so we came out really strong.”
The score was tied 33-33 late in the third quarter, but the Raiders scored the next 15 points, including seven free throws in the fourth quarter. Fort Loramie struggled to find shots during the stretch and threw the ball away several times in the last four minutes of the game.
“I think defensively we just locked in there,” Russia coach Andy Timmerman said. “They made a run in the third quarter. We said at halftime that they were going to make their runs, and they did. We just had to make ours and limit their run, and we did.
“We played excellent defense and were dialed in. That’s the best defense I’ve seen us play all year. Offensively, we were more patient than we have been and took care of the ball. It was just a great team effort.”
Poling led Russia with 15 points while Jenna Cordonnier added 12.
Thursday’s game was senior night for Russia and its final regular season game.
Russia lost back-to-back games to Tri-Village and Anna in late January to fall to 13-5. Thursday’s win over Fort Loramie was the latest on a four-game winning streak.
Timmerman said the Raiders are playing the best they have all season. All wins during their current streak have been by double-digit margins.
“We’ve been playing much, much better lately,” Timmerman said. “It went for or five games there (in January) where we just weren’t playing great basketball. But I told them that we’ve just got to keep improving, keep improving. We want to play our best heading into tournament time, and I think we are.”
The Raiders, which are the No. 2 seed in the Sidney Div. IV sectional, will open tournament play on Feb. 17 against Fairlawn.
Russia led 8-5 at the end of the first quarter and 24-19 at halftime. Fort Loramie’s Abby Holthaus and Taylor Ratermann made several early baskets in the third to help the team rally, but neither they nor anyone else could score late.
After making a basket with about a minute left in the third, Fort Loramie didn’t score again until the final five seconds of the game.
“I liked the second quarter and thought we played better defensively there,” Fort Loramie coach Carla Siegel said. “I liked the first three minutes of the third quarter where we battled and took a lead for a little bit, but there’s things that we need to do better.”
Ratermann led Fort Loramie with nine points.
Fort Loramie is the No. 1 seed in the Sidney sectional. The Redskins will wrap up regular season play next Tuesday against Marion Local and will start postseason play on Feb. 17 against Ansonia.
“This definitely pointed out some of our weaknesses tonight,” Siegel said. “… I thought they were more physical than we were tonight. I don’t think our girls responded at all to the physicality of the game, and that’s something we can’t let happen (in the tournament).”
Contact Bryant Billing at (937) 538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.