COLUMBUS — The rats helped the Wildcats earn a state title.
Minster junior forward Courtney Prenger nicknamed freshman guards Ivy Wolf and Janae Hoying “rat 1” and “rat 2” earlier this season after seeing the duo in the gym so often. The two gym rats were managers for Minster’s girls basketball team for several years before they entered high school last fall.
Saturday’s Division IV state championship game at the Schottenstein Center in Columbus left little doubt to the amount of time the duo has spent in the gym. Both players scored 15 points to help Minster beat Ottoville 63-48, which earns the program its first state title since 2004.
“They’re always in the gym,” Prenger said of Wolf and Hoying. “… The energy that they give our team, I think that’s the biggest thing. Yeah, they score a lot of points, and that’s important, and they can play defense. But the love they have for the game is incredible. They bring that to the rest of us. When you lose it a little bit, they don’t let you forget.”
Wolf scored eight points in the second half, while Hoying scored 13 points in the second half, including seven consecutive points midway through the third quarter that gave Minster a 33-29 lead.
Wolf has been a varsity starter all season, while Hoying moved up from junior varsity midway through the year. Minster had lost in regional games each of the last two years, and Minster coach Mike Wiss said the two freshmen helped the team win a state title this year.
Wiss said Hoying’s late-season addition on varsity helped the Wildcats (26-3) finish on a 12-game winning streak.
“We knew that in order for us to make a run, with the talent that we had in the junior and senior classes, Janae had to be a part of it as an extra guard,” Wiss said. “… We started to work Janae in during the middle of January, and it continued to grow.”
Minster beat Ottoville 55-54 in a home nonconference game on Jan. 20. Hoying caught the attention of Lady Green coach Dave Kleman during the junior varsity game that night.
“She was playing JV and we were like, ‘Mike, what are you doing? Get her off the JV and let our girls have a chance.’ She’s a heck of a ball player,” Kleman said. “They went into that run where they lost a few games and needed some more quickness and ball handling to help out Ivy. (Hoying) was not a surprise.”
Minster started slow on offense and trailed by 10 points late in the first quarter. Once the Wildcats stopped committing turnovers, Ottoville couldn’t stop their balanced attack.
Prenger scored a team-high 17 points and senior forward Taylor Kogge added 12. The post players’ scoring combined with Wolf and Hoying’s shooting helped Minster score its highest amount of points in its tournament run.
“Putting her into the mix, that’s a whole new dynamic,” Wiss said of Hoying. “The other thing is our guards like to put the ball in the air, and they can never forget (our two post players).
“I’m a big believer in the fact that, in the last three weeks when it was time for us to play our best, we got better at putting the ball in the post, clean entries to the post.”
Ottoville, which lost leading scorer Bridget Landin early the fourth quarter due to injury, led 48-47 with 4:45 left. The Lady Green didn’t score again, as Minster finished on a 16-0 run. Prenger scored six points during the run while Hoying and Wolf each scored four.
“I knew it was going to be hard, because Ottoville has good guards,” Hoying said. “We had to have great defense and had to be able to push it through and control pressure and everything to make it to the other end. We got it under control… and we settled in.”
Ottoville committed five turnovers over the last four and half minutes, which aided in Minster’s run. The Lady Green had 17 total turnovers and Minster had eight, five of which came in the first half.
Kogge hit a layup with 5:15 left in the third to cut Ottoville’s lead to 29-26, then Hoying hit a 3 with about 20 seconds later to tie the score. Hoying hit a layup after a steal with 4:34 left and followed with two foul shots eight seconds later to put Minster ahead 33-29.
Landin, a senior, hit her head on the floor hard after getting tangled up with 6:49 left in the fourth. She didn’t return.
The squads traded the lead over the next two minutes, but Prenger put the Wildcats ahead for good with a jumper with 4:37 left. She hit another jumper with 3:25 left to put Minster up 51-48, and Kogge added a layup a minute later to boost the lead to five.
Prenger added a layup with 2:02 left, then Hoying and Wolf combined to score eight points from the free-throw line in the final 70 seconds.
“Once we made a defensive adjustment in who’s guarding who, we went on a bit of a run, and our run was tough to stop at the end,” Wiss said.
Prenger and Landin played with each other for the Dayton Lady Hoopstars AAU program, and Prenger said she felt for Landin.
“I was talking to their coach after, and I said to go tell Bridget that I love her and I wish I could play one more season of AAU with her,” Prenger said.
Minster will lose five seniors to graduation: Kogge, Alli Fischer, Paige Thobe, Kendra Thien and Regan Wuebker.
Kogge said she was happy Wolf and Hoying performed well among other underclassmen.
“For me, it’s kind of relieving, because I know when I leave Minster and take this jersey off for the last time — which is kind of sad — I’m leaving it well with Ivy and Courtney and a lot of good guards and posts too,” Kogge said. “It’s relieving to know when I leave Minster, it’s not going to stay right up there, and hopefully be right back up next year.”
The state title is the program’s third. Minster has won 33 state team titles in school history, while teams from the Midwest Athletic Conference have won 126.
The title is the latest in a recent string for the school, which stated last spring with baseball and continued last December with football.
“… I got some texts this morning just saying ‘We got our ring, now it’s time to get yours,’” Kogge said. “Everyone in the school, their expectations are high. Everyone knows that we’re pushing each other and root for each other.”
Ottoville led 12-2 early but Minster came within 14-9 by the end of the first. The Lady Green pushed their lead out to 22-16 with 2:29 left in the first, but Prenger and Hoying made baskets before the end of the quarter to help Minster pull within 24-20 at halftime.
“Once we got out of that (early bad spell) and started to apply some full-court pressure… we tried to just get them out-of-sync a little bit offensively,” Wiss said.
Minster turned up the pressure on defense in the second half and got seven steals to help its rally.
Prenger and Wolf each had six rebounds while Kogge and Hoying had three each. Minster owned a 25-22 rebounding advantage for the game.
The Wildcats shot 21 for 44 (47.7 percent) from the field while Ottoville shot 18 for 39 (46.2).
Landin, Amber Miller and Kasey Knippen each had 13 points for the Lady Green.
Ottoville has made the state final four three times in the last six years. Saturday was the Lady Green’s first appearance in a state title game since 2005.