FORT LORAMIE — What was billed as a big Shelby County Athletic League showdown turned into another showcase of how good Russia is.
The Raiders dominated the first half on Tuesday and cruised in the second to a 47-30 victory over archrival Fort Loramie.
Russia, which scored the first 16 points, improved to 10-0 overall and 5-0 in SCAL play. The Redskins dropped to 7-2 and 2-2, respectively.
It is Russia’s ninth consecutive victory by a double-digit margin. The Raiders’ lone close game was a 42-41 win over Jackson Center in a season opener, in which they rallied from a seven-point deficit in the fourth quarter.
Expectations were high entering the season for Russia, which returned every starter from last year’s 15-10 campaign.
“Last year was our third year of what we thought it would be, as we built the program back up,” Russia coach Spencer Cordonnier said. “… This year, it’s been about growing up. All those guys that played as freshmen are now seniors or juniors, and we have one sophomore, Braylon (Cordonnier), who played three quarters of the season (on varsity) last year.
“We’ve gotten in the weight room, conditioned, and are getting after it in practice every day and competing. That’s what we’ve done so far, and that’s what we’ll continue to do, win or lose.”
Prominent on the Raiders’ jerseys this season is a black patch with “coach,” printed in all capital letters in white lettering. The patches commemorate former coach Dave Borchers, who died in a car accident in October.
Borchers was set to enter his fifth year as coach; he succeeded Cordonnier, who resigned after the 2018 season following three seasons at the program’s helm. Cordonnier worked as an assistant the last four years under Borchers.
“Kids are pretty resilient. It was hard on them, but they don’t forget what Dave meant to them, what he’s done for them and the time they had with him,” Cordonnier said. “They were very, very affected by it in the beginning. We talk and laugh about some of the things Dave used to do and some of the things he used to say. They’ll never forget what kind of an influence he was on them.”
Russia led 23-2 at the end of the first quarter and 35-10 at halftime on Tuesday. They hit five 3-pointers in the first half and forced Fort Loramie into 12 turnovers.
The Raiders kept up their full-court defense for most of the second half; Fort Loramie unofficially finished with 22 turnovers and was outrebounded 21-18.
“We knew coming in (this season) we had horses, and we knew we could run nine or 10 out there,” Cordonnier said. “We haven’t run 10 out there yet in a meaningful game, but we have run nine.
“We’ve got the horses to run a full-court game the entire night, and that’s what we practice. Our practices are very, very intense, which leads to our conditioning for these games.”
Like it has been all season, it was a balanced scoring effort for Russia. Seven players scored, and all scored in the first half.
Braylon Cordonnier led Russia with 14 points while Brayden Monnin scored nine, Felix Francis scored eight and Hayden Quinter scored seven.
While Spencer Cordonnier said he was pleased with the start, he said the second half showed the squad still has room for improvement. Fort Loramie cut the gap down to 15 points in the fourth quarter before Russia scored the final basket.
“We ran some sets in the first half and felt like at halftime we could run more and get the ball inside, hit some three-footers,” Cordonnier said. “We did that, but we didn’t make some of them. We didn’t put the ball in the basket. We tried to do too much one-on-one stuff.
“… Second half isn’t what we wanted. But with getting a 25-point lead, your intensity level does fall sometimes. Kids get a little complacent. That’s kind of what happened in the second half.”
Tuesday’s contest was the first of three big games this week for Russia. The squad is scheduled to travel to Jackson Center (8-1, 5-1) on Friday and to New Bremen (5-1) on Saturday.
“Ecstatic for this week,” Cordonnier said. “It’s a great opportunity for us to play three really, really good teams. We’ll see what happens.”
Ryan Hoelscher led Fort Loramie with 13 points. Leading scorer Caleb Maurer managed three; he left the game in the second quarter due to injury.