VANDALIA — Fort Loramie and Tri-Village’s girls basketball teams have been as invariable to the Southwest Division IV regional tournament since 2010 as UConn’s women’s team has been to the final four.
It’s no shock the Redskins and Patriots are again the last standing in southwest Ohio; the Patriots were ranked No. 1 in in every Associated Press Div. IV state poll this season, while the Redskins were ranked No. 2.
The two top-ranked squads are set to meet in a regional final at 1 p.m. on Saturday at Vandalia-Butler’s Student Activity Center after Fort Loramie beat Russia 57-42 and Tri-Village beat Marion Local 50-38 on Thursday evening in regional semifinals.
The Redskins beat Tri-Village by 24 points in a regional final on their way to the 2021 D-IV state championship. The two squads also faced off in regional finals four consecutive years from 2010 to 2013.
“For four years, you had the same teams in the regional finals. That’s unheard of,” Fort Loramie coach Carla Seigel said. “That was great. I have the upmost respect for what (Tri-Village coach) Brad (Gray) has done for the school and community.
“They are No. 1 this time, so I guess we’re going to be the hunters instead of the hunted.”
Fort Loramie (25-2) had to beat rival Russia, the only Shelby County Athletic League opponent it has lost to in the last five years, to get to Saturday’s final.
The Raiders handed Fort Loramie its first league loss since 2018 when they won an SCAL matchup 43-40 on Feb. 2 in Russia. The Redskins won the teams’ first matchup 54-41 on Jan. 12 in Fort Loramie.
Thursday’s regional semifinal in Vandalia looked a lot like the Jan. 12 matchup played on Fort Loramie’s college-size floor, and not like the February matchup on Russia’s smaller court at Clair C. Naveau Gymnasium: the Redskins jumped out to a big lead, Russia rallied to cut the gap, and Fort Loramie pulled away in the final minutes of the fourth quarter to win by double digits.
Skyler Albers, who scored a game-high 16 points, said Fort Loramie was able to handle Russia’s full-court pressure better than it did a month ago in the loss.
Playing on a larger court and having more space to move didn’t hurt, either.
“I like it, because our court at Loramie is big, so we’re used to it,” Albers said. “… We knew the press was coming, so we worked a lot on that in practice. But our defense won us the game, I think. Our posts did a really good job of guarding their posts, because that’s what their offense revolves around. We had good defense on their guards, too.”
Fort Loramie, which has advanced to regionals every year but one since 2010, jumped out to an 8-2 lead and led 15-6 at the end of the first quarter. Russia cut the gap to 27-22 by halftime, but the Redskins scored the first five points of the third to re-take control.
The Redskins committed some turnovers that led to transition baskets for Russia. But they forced more turnovers than they committed and rebounded well, especially defensively.
“I think it’s a calling card of ours, our defense,” Seigel said. “Our offense really isn’t a calling card. …I thought the way our girls played tonight, especially being aggressive at the rim, was great. I don’t think Russia was ready for that, to see that side of us.
“… I read a quote from John Wooden once that said something like if you ask your (players) to play hard the entire court, offense and defense, there’s going to be mistakes, and you have to accept that. I think that’s what I’ve had to do with this team. Yes, they do travel and they make some terrible passes at times. But we play hard, and those mistakes are going to happen.”
Fort Loramie senior guard Ava Turner added 10 points while sophomore forward Avery Brandewie scored nine.
Russia junior forward Roni Poling led the squad with 15 points while senior guard Cece Borchers scored 13. Senior center Kate Sherman finished with nine.
Russia finishes 22-5 overall. The Raiders will lose eight seniors to graduation: Borchers, Sherman, Kelby Doseck, Reese Goubeaux, Simone Puthoff, Jenna York, Grace Holscher and Miah Monnin.
Tri-Village, which has advanced to regionals for all but three seasons since 2010, scored the last nine points to pull away late and beat Marion Local by 12 in the first semifinal on Thursday in Vandalia.
The Patriots (27-0) have struggled in regionals in recent years against opponents with strong defenses, including in a 54-44 loss to Cincinnati Country Day in a regional final last season.
Gray said it’s a sign of growth how the squad was able to handle Marion Local’s defense on Thursday.
“We’re playing three seniors who have a lot of confidence in themselves and each other,” Gray said. “I think that’s a big difference between this group and some of the groups we’ve had in the past, our response mechanism when things don’t go our way.
“This team really handles things. …It’s something we’ve all had to get better at, myself included. They allow me to respond better to it, because I can tell that they’re calm.”
Gray said the squad knows Fort Loramie’s defense will be bothersome on Saturday. The Redskins average about 16 steals per game.
“We’re going to see what we saw tonight, in terms of the physicality,” Gray said. “… Us and Loramie have a longstanding tournament history, and they’ve gotten the better of us almost every single time. …We know what we’ve got to do.”
The Patriots are led by senior guard Rylee Sagester, who was recently named D-IV Southwest district player of the year and is a candidate for Ms. Basketball.
Sagester, who is the daughter of longtime Tri-Village boys coach Josh Sagester, averages 21 points, four assists, 3.5 rebounds and 2.7 steals per game. Gray said she’s improved at handling defensive pressure, especially compared to when she was an underclassman.
“Early in her career, when people would get physical with her, it wasn’t always great,” Gray said. “She’s matured.”
Senior forward Morgan Hunt averages 14.4 points and 6.6 rebounds per game, senior guard Torie Richards averages 13.1 points and 4.6 steals per game and freshman center Kynnedi Hager averages 8.3 points and 5.8 rebounds. Junior forward Bella Black averages a team-best 7.5 rebounds and 6.1 points.
“They have lots of seniors with lots of experience, so we have to make sure we’re able to match that,” Seigel said. “… Rylee is a great player. Girl can score. We’re just going to have to defend. If we defend like tonight and even a little bit better, I like our chances.
“It’s not just her. Richards …is a slasher and is quick. Hunt is just a phenomenal player. They’ve got a lot, and they’ve had a great year. We’re excited to play them. We’ll see what happens.”
Contact Bryant Billing at (937) 538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.