VANDALIA — A rematch between top-ranked Fort Loramie and Minster has been anticipated by fans of both schools since a double-overtime nonconference game on Jan. 12.
Another meeting between the two squads became official on Thursday after Division IV regional semifinals at Vandalia-Butler’s Student Activity Center.
Minster beat Tri-Village 60-50 and Fort Loramie beat Xenia Legacy Christian 47-39 in semifinals to set up a regional final between the two neighboring rivals on Saturday in Vandalia.
“It’s going to be a hard-nosed defensive battle,” Fort Loramie coach Carla Siegel said. “They play great defense and I think we play great defense. I think it’s going to come down to the team that makes the least mistakes and is the most confident in their ability to play. I hope that’s us.”
Aside from the two towns being highly familiar with each other, players on both squads are very familiar with each other, whether from playing with together on AAU teams or playing against each other in multiple prep and club sports.
Fort Loramie sophomore forward Kenzie Hoelscher plays with Minster sophomore guards Ivy Wolf and Janae Hoying on the Dayton Lady Hoopstars AAU program.
“A lot of the girls play for Hoopstars and know each other from that,” Hoelscher said. “Every time someone falls to the ground when we play, both Loramie and Minster girls come to pick someone up. It’s really good sportsmanship, and it’s going to be a fun game to play.”
The Redskins, which were ranked No. 1 in the final Div. IV Associated Press state poll, beat Minster 56-48 on Jan. 12 in Fort Loramie. Minster, which is the defending D-IV state champion, was No. 2 in the final state poll.
“It was a slugfest,” Minster coach Mike Wiss said of the first-round matchup. “… It’s going to be another slugfest, it’s going to be up-and-down, and it’s going to be physical.”
It’ll be the second consecutive season the teams have met in a regional final. Minster won last year’s tournament matchup 44-28.
The Wildcats (25-1) jumped out to an early 16-point lead on Thursday and survived a comeback attempt by Tri-Village (24-2) to win the first semifinal.
“If I was disappointed in anything tonight, it was handling the pressure,” Wiss said. “Tonight we didn’t (handle the pressure), and we’re going to have to be better than that on Saturday. Fortunate thing of it is, we matched their intensity, and we’re fortunate to be coming back (to Vandalia).
“… A lot of heart (from our team). They wanted this and wanted to be back in that next game, and they got their opportunity.”
The Wildcats led 49-35 with 3:42 left in the fourth quarter but the Patriots scored the next seven points to pull within 49-42 with 2:09 left. Minster was able to stave off a rally thanks in part to senior guard Demaris Wolf hitting 4-of-4 free-throw attempts over the next 30 seconds.
Wolf led Minster with 23 points, with 15 coming in the first half to help the Wildcats take a big early lead.
“She got her feet set and she took her time,” Wiss said of Wolf’s early shooting. “… In this kind of environment, that makes a big deal. I was happy with her effort in the first half.”
Wolf hit a pair of free throws to put Minster ahead 53-44 with 1:33 left, but Tri-Village pulled within seven points twice in the next 30 seconds. Andi Bietry hit a basket with 41 seconds left to pull the Patriots within 56-50, which was Minster’s smallest lead since early in the first quarter.
Ivy Wolf made two pairs of free throws in the final 27 seconds, though, to boost Minster’s lead to 10 points. She finished with 17 points, with 12 coming in the second half. She hit 8-of-8 free-throw attempts in the second half.
“Ivy was playing with four fouls, but we needed her back on the floor (late) to bring the pressure,” Wiss of Wolf, who played at point guard late. “She did a super job and got herself to the free-throw line. Demaris, Ivy and Janae (Hoying) all made some big free throws at the end.”
Free throws were a big help to Minster. The Wildcats were 21 for 24 from the free-throw line while Tri-Village was 16 for 21.
“The game changed in the second half a little bit on how the fouls were getting called,” Wiss said. “We pride ourselves on trying to get as tight as you can. We want to get in your bubble, make the offense uncomfortable. Maybe we got too close. Obviously it came down to a bunch — probably too many — free throws.”
The Patriots finished the first half on a 12-6 run to cut Minster’s lead to 32-21 at halftime and pulled closer in the third quarter.
The teams traded points to a 36-25 score. Ivy Wolf hit a basket with 2:18 left in the third to increase the lead to 38-26, but Lissa Siler hit a 3 and Maddie Downing made a put-back to pull Tri-Village within 38-31.
Karly Richard split a pair of free throws with one second left, then Ivy Wolf came away with a steal and made a basket with 6:21 left in the fourth to push the lead back to double digits at 41-31.
Tri-Village twice pulled as close as eight points in the first half of the fourth, but Minster quickly answered with buckets each time.
“I think at the end of the first half, they started using more of their high-low game and got a little bit more touches for their big posts in the middle,” Wiss said. “That’s how our entire halftime was spent, how they were getting touches for their big kids.”
Tri-Village 6-foot-1 junior post Maddie Downing led the Patriots with 17 points while Siler finished with 13 and Emma Printz added 10.
Printz and guard Peyton Bietry are the only seniors the team will lose to graduation. With Downing, younger sister 6-2 Meghan Downing and Siler all set to return next among others, the Patriots should be among the area’s favorites to make another deep tournament run.
“They’re a very good basketball team, with a lot of good kids coming back,” Wiss said. “A lot of respect to Coach (Brad) Gray and what he does at Tri-Village.”
Courtney Prenger and Hoying each added eight points for Minster.
Minster took control early. Hoying opened the game with a layup after a steal, then Demaris Wolf hit a jumper and a 3-pointer to push the lead to 7-0 with 5:15 left.
Siler hit a pair of free throws to bring Tri-Village within 7-5 with 3:52 left, but Ivy Wolf and Jessica Falk hit consecutive 3s to push the lead to 13-5. Prenger made a basket and Hoying completed a three-point play in the final minute of the first to push the lead to 18-7.
Demaris Wolf opened the second with a 3, then hit another with 5:15 left to increase the lead to 26-9. Siler then hit consecutive 3s for the Patriots to cut the gap to 11 points, and the teams traded baskets until halftime.
Fort Loramie 47, Xenia Legacy Christian 39
Fort Loramie got a tough challenge from Legacy Christian in Thursday’s second semifinal, but sophomore forward Kenzie Hoelscher provided a big spark in the second half to help seal a rematch with Minster.
Hoelscher struggled in the first half and was pulled from the game early in the third quarter by Fort Loramie coach Carla Siegel. After a stern talk from Siegel, she came into the game and promptly scored five-straight points, which turned a 27-23 deficit into a 28-27 lead. The Redskins led the rest of the game.
“Coach took me to the side and she was like, ‘Kenzie, we need you offensively and need you to be a threat. I’m going to put you back in in 30 seconds, and you’ve got to do something,’” Hoelscher said. “… I went from there and got a little fire. I was like, ‘We’re not losing this game.’”
It was a battle for Fort Loramie, which won its three sectional games with running clocks and beat Cedarville 49-21 in a district final.
The Redskins didn’t panic when trailing midway through the third.
“I told them never to give up,” Siegel, a 20-year veteran coach, said. “I told them, ‘I’m not going to let you lose this game,’ and the girls chuckled, because they know how I am.”
Siegel was disappointed with the early play of her young team, which is mostly underclassmen, though she was happy the squad was able to take control and finish on a 27-12 run.
“I’d like to tell you we were focused because our focus was on Legacy all week, but these are 14- and 15-year-old girls, so I’m not sure where they were,” Siegel said. “… Hopefully, we can put this behind us and just get ready for Minster tomorrow.”
Dana Rose also scored nine points, including four late free throws. Kennedi Gephart and Taylor Ratermann each added eight points. Gephart led the squad with four assists and Hoelscher had three, while Marissa Meiring led the squad with eight rebounds.
Fort Loramie (26-1) led 23-22 after a fast-paced, back-and-forth first half. Legacy quickly took the lead in the third quarter as the pace slowed.
Kathleen Ahner completed a three-point play with 7:02 left, then Emma Hess scored with 5:50 to go to put the Knights ahead 27-23.
“I don’t think we were spreading the floor very well and I don’t think our pressure defense was where it should have been,” Siegel said of Fort Loramie’s rough start. “I thought we were playing back on our heels rather than playing in their faces and trying to create turnovers.”
Fort Loramie finally found some offense late in the quarter. Kenzie Hoelscher came off the bench and hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 3:43 left, then hit a jumper about 90 seconds later to put the Redskins ahead 28-27.
“I thought she responded well with those two big shots to get us going and then her defense picked up,” Siegel said. “I’m very proud of her, the way she responded in the second half.”
Rose added a basket before the end of the quarter to increase the lead to three points, then Meiring made a jumper with 7:14 left in the fourth to increase the lead to 32-27.
Ahner hit a 3 with 6:51 to break a nearly seven-minute scoreless stretch for Legacy Christian and cut the gap to 32-30. She split a pair of free throws with 6:14 left, but the Knights then had another long scoreless stretch.
Hoelscher added another jumper with 5:29 left, then Gephart hit a 3 with 4:28 left to increase the lead to 37-31.
Katie Leach hit a pair of free throws with 3:14 left for Legacy, but neither team scored until Rose made a pair of free throws with 1:33 left to push the lead back to six points. The Knights didn’t come closer than five points after that.
Legacy Christian finishes 24-3. Ahner finished with 19 points while Leach finished with nine. The Knights will return all but seniors next year, only one of which was a starter.
Ahner played well for Legacy throughout the tournament, including in a sectional final against Russia, when she hit a game-winning 3 at the buzzer.
“We had a hard time containing Ahner,” Siegel said. “She was lights out. …They have a nice team and battled hard and gave us quite a contest.”
Legacy Christian scored the game’s first five points but Fort Loramie scored the next 10 points. Rose hit a 3 with 55 seconds left in the first to put Fort Loramie ahead 15-7, but the Knights responded with a big run.
Ahner hit a 3 and a mid-range jumper in the first 2:10 of the second quarter to pull the Knights within 15-14. Taylor Ratermann hit a 3 with 5:36 left to put Fort Loramie ahead by four, but Maddy Combs responded 30 seconds later with a 3 from the right wing to make it a one-point game again.
The teams traded points to a 23-22 halftime score.
“I feel like sometimes we come out and we don’t have any energy, and that really puts us down,” Hoelscher said. “When we don’t come out with energy, we don’t play the Loramie basketball we need to play. We had to pick ourselves up and regroup. …Whenever we execute that, we’re the Loramie team we have been previously in the season.”
The Redskins will try to pick up the energy on Saturday against Minster.
“We’ve got to come out and play hard and play 32 minutes of Loramie basketball,” Hoelscher said.
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.