By Jack Kramer
For the Sidney Daily News
FORT LORAMIE — Despite a west central Ohio snowstorm on Saturday, more than 2,000 fans were rewarded with far more than the price of admission as they witnessed a basketball “classic” at Fort Loramie High School.
Minster and Fort Loramie, ranked number one and number two in the state, dueled for four quarters and two overtimes, before the Redskins outlasted the Wildcats, 56-48. The contest was one of the best and most competitive Division IV girls games played in this part of Ohio in many years.
When the contest ended, a college scout from a school near Lansing, Michigan, first complained briefly about the snow that blew in Lima while he crawled south on I-75. He then abruptly lit up with a big smile.
“I drove eight hours round trip with a short list and left with a long list of potentially outstanding college players to follow closely,” he said. “If there is a game at Minster or Fort Loramie next Saturday, I’m right back here to be entertained by Ohio girls basketball—blizzard or no blizzard.”
The Battle of Ohio delivered, and then some, and then some more.
Minster and Fort Foramie players gave it all they had including “plenty of extra,” agreed head coaches Carla Siegel of Fort Loramie and Mike Wiss of Minster.
“Call it what you want — spent, fatigued, out of gas,” coach Siegel said. “The girls on both teams played right through all of that. They put everything they had on the line. The game was as competitive as it gets.”
Coach Wiss said that the high quality of play on Saturday was a testament to “the very special culture of basketball” in the towns of Minster and Fort Loramie.
“That fantastic contest was the result of extremely hard work and preparation that spans much of the year for the girls at both schools,” he pointed out. “They have fun and excel at the same time.”
Players in the two hoops programs know each other off the court. The parents, in some cases, have been part of the Minster-Fort Loramie series, too. The towns are separated by just a few miles. The games are usually tight, pressure-packed, and well-executed offensively and defensively. They often go down to the last possession or two.
The boys game on Saturday night was no exception. Fort Loramie nipped Minster, 47-45, on a three-point rainbow by Jake Ratermann with a second to go. Just like the girls matinee, the boys contest was tied at the end of regulation and needed an OT.
The girls began the day setting the tone with tenacious and, at times, suffocating physical play. Still, the two teams totaled only 23 turnovers. A college assistant coach from Indianapolis called it “the best combination of defense and ball handling” he may have ever seen in small school girls basketball.
Minster’s defense stood out in the initial period. Fort Loramie didn’t score its first field goal until a minute was left in the opening quarter. But thanks to sophomore Dana Rose, who swished a 50-foot buzzer beater, the Redskins eked out an 11-9 lead after one quarter.
Foul trouble then plagued Minster, which had to sit four starters for a minute or two in the second period. Fort Loramie inched out to a 23-16 halftime bulge as sophomores Caitlyn Gasson and Jadyn Puthoff drained three-pointers.
Senior Jessica Falk drilled two big jump shots for Minster in the first half. Season-long leading scorers Ivy Wolf, a sophomore, and 6-2 post player Courtney Prenger, a senior, split 12 points to lead the visitors.
The Wildcats then clawed back. Falk hoisted in a long triple in the third quarter and senior Karly Richard came off the bench to bury another. Minster rebounded to lead the Redskins, 31-30, after 24 minutes.
Meanwhile, at the free throw stripe, a trend had developed. Minster was only 7 of 14 at the line at this point in the game. Fort Loramie was 9 of 12. The Wildcats finished the entire contest 11 of 27, sinking a dismal 4 of 13 over the last quarter and two overtime periods.
The Minster numbers were an aberration, for sure. The ‘Cats and ‘Skins had converted 72 percent of their foul shots spanning the first 13 games.
Charity shots are free, “but never easy, especially in extremely close games,” said Coach Wiss. “When you miss a few, the cylinder gets smaller.”
Interestingly, a Fort Loramie missed free throw cost the Redskins a victory in regulation. With under ten seconds left and her team ahead by two, Rose was off the mark on the front end of a one-and-one. Ivy Wolf then made a brilliant play traveling coast-to-coast to toss in a runner, which forged a 41-41 tie right at the horn.
“We tried hard all day to keep a body between Ivy and the basket. Ivy is a great player. She is tough to slow down and impossible to stop,” said Coach Siegel. “She was even more difficult to defend on that last play because we didn’t want to foul.”
Minster bolted to a 36-30 lead at the start of the fourth stanza. But Redskins Sholtis and junior Kennedi Gephart poured in clutch baskets to trim the Wildcats advantage to two.
Wolf made a three-pointer early in the fourth period for Minster. Rose also ripped the cords from distance for the Redskins.
The foul-shooting bug bit Minster in the first extra session. With the game tied at 45 and the clock winding down, sophomore Janae Hoying zipped down the lane and was whacked on the arm while scooping a shot toward the rim. Needing to make only one free throw for a Wildcats win, Hoying missed long on the first and rattled the second in and out.
To make matters worse for Minster, 5-8 guard Ivy Wolf fouled out during this first overtime.
Early in the second four-minute period, Rose lofted in her third trifecta of the day to jump-start the Redskins, who then pulled away to win by eight. Gephart hit two field goals in the final 90 seconds, one capping a snappy 3-on-2 fast break.
The 5-10 Puthoff for Fort Loramie performed solid defense on Prenger and limited her to a point below her game average of eleven. Minster handcuffed Marissa Meiring, the Redskins top season scorer, and held her to two.
For Fort Loramie, Sholtis totaled 15; Rose, 13; Gephart, 10; Puthoff, 7; Taylor Ratermann, 4; Gasson, 3; and Meiring and Kenzie Hoelscher, 2 each. For Minster, Ivy Wolf canned 17; Prenger, 10; Falk, 7; Richard, 6; Hoying, 4; and Demaris Wolf and Danielle Barhorst, 2 each.
Fort Loramie finished 15 of 25 at the foul line. In the end, the Redskins had a slight rebounding advantage. Each team dished out a dozen assists leading directly to field goals.
With the Battle of Ohio being one of only a few games not postponed on Saturday, coaches and players from other girls programs showed up in the stands. Many represented schools that could possibly meet either Minster or Fort Loramie in the tournament.
One coach said that the lofty level of competition displayed by the two schools is the “gold standard” other schools should set for their players.
“When you Google the term ‘competitive,’ a short video of this super game today should pop up on the screen,” the coach continued.
A grandparent of one of the Fort Loramie players was thankful the game was not shut down by the weather. “Instead, we didn’t get one varsity game; we got more like a doubleheader,” she beamed.
Chuck McBee, at courtside announcing for ScoresBroadcast.com, had predicted the Battle of Ohio was “too close to call” in Saturday morning’s newspaper stories. He even stated he was looking forward to “an overtime.”
He forgot to add, “An overtime, or two.”
Both Minster and Fort Loramie are 13-1 and return to conference and league play on Thursday night.
The two schools could collide again in a regional championship contest on March 9 at Vandalia-Butler. The Wildcats are defending state champs in girls D-IV. Fort Loramie won state titles in 2013 and 2015.