KETTERING — There were a lot of similarities between Jackson Center and Fort Loramie’s Division IV regional semifinal contest on Tuesday to the squads’ Shelby County Athletic League games. Like both regular-season matchups, Tuesday’s tournament contest at Fairmont’s Trent Arena was a low-scoring, defensive battle.
The result was more than just similar, though — it was identical.
Jackson Center beat the Redskins for a third time this season, which advances the squad to a regional final. Fort Loramie overcame an early eight-point deficit and led midway through the fourth, but the Tigers scored the last six points to earn a 30-25 victory.
Jackson Center (22-5) advances to face either Midwest Athletic Conference champion St. Henry (22-3) or Ohio Heritage Conference South Division champion Springfield Catholic Central (21-3) in a regional final on Friday at 7 p.m. at Trent Arena.
The Tigers beat the Redskins 40-34 on Dec. 14 in Fort Loramie and 39-36 on Jan. 25 in Jackson Center.
Jackson Center coach Scott Elchert said Fort Loramie’s physical play again caused problems for Jackson Center offensively but he credited his players’ endurance.
“Our kids hung tough and made just enough plays in a couple of situations,” Elchert said. “I didn’t think that game would go much different than what it did. It was the third time playing each other, and both teams defend the heck out of each other and know each other’s tendencies.
“… Their kids just gave one hell of an effort, so all the credit goes to them. I just told our kids that (Fort Loramie) played hard and played clean, and that’s a team you can have a lot of respect for.”
The Tigers led 22-17 late in the third quarter but Fort Loramie battled back in the fourth to take the lead. Eli Rosengarten made a 3 with 4:32 left to bring the Redskins within 24-23, then Nathan Raterman made two free throws to put Fort Loramie ahead 25-24.
“That’s our kids to a T,” Fort Loramie coach Corey Britton said of the squad fighting back. “They do that in every sport they play. The fire — it was no different tonight. Proud of the effort. We just couldn’t get that one stop, the one loose ball or the one rebound we needed.”
The Tigers scored on their next possession on a shot by TJ Esser to take a 26-25 lead with 2:43 left. Esser’s basket came after Trent Platfoot found Esser open in the post and passed to him while Fort Loramie was trying to trap.
Fort Loramie missed a shot on its next possession, then Jackson Center drained the clock down to 45 seconds before the Redskins fouled.
The foul was only the Redskins’ sixth of the half, so Jackson Center had to inbound the ball near half court after the foul. The Tigers nearly threw it away near half court, but Platfoot grabbed it off the floor after a Fort Loramie player nearly had it and was immediately fouled.
“I’m not sure (that inbounds play) was the best decision we’ve made, but we found a way to come up with it,” Elchert said. “That’s one of those 50/50 balls that if it goes the other way, they probably score a layup and we’re down one (point), and then who knows.”
Platfoot made two free throws, then Fort Loramie missed a shot on its next possession and the Tigers got the rebound. Esser was fouled and made two foul shots with 16 seconds left.
The Redskins missed another shot, and Jackson Center grabbed the rebound with about five seconds left. The Tigers ran out the clock to seal the win.
“I don’t think that’s the way we wanted to go out, but you’ve got to give Jackson Center a lot of credit,” Britton said. “We had great opportunities, we just didn’t capitalize.”
Now the only thing standing between the Tigers and their first state final four berth since 2016 will be either St. Henry or Catholic Central. Those two squads played in Tuesday’s second regional semifinal at Trent Arena, and the game wasn’t complete before press time.
“We’ve seen them both play a couple of different times,” Elchert said. “St. Henry, we’re very familiar with. We scrimmaged them and have played most of the other MAC teams. That would be a similar type of game as tonight, because they defend the heck out of the basketball.
“(Catholic Central) has made a heck of a run the last few of years and have a couple of prolific players that present some problems.”
Esser led Jackson Center with nine points while Aidan Reichert finished with seven. Rosengarten led Fort Loramie with 10.
Fort Loramie hit two 3-pointers in the last 1:18 of the second quarter to pull within 13-11 at halftime and continued its run in the third quarter.
Nick Brandewie made a basket with 7:23 left in the quarter to tie it, then the teams traded baskets. Mason Kemper made a basket with 5:48 left to give the Redskins their first lead of the game at 17-15, but Jackson Center scored the next seven points.
Jerron Reese made a basket with 4:38 left to tie it, then Reichert completed a three-point play 40 seconds later to put the Tigers ahead 20-17. Reichert added another basket to cap off the run.
Similar to its regional final loss to Marion Local last year at Trent Arena, Fort Loramie couldn’t hit a shot early. The Redskins didn’t score a field goal until Raterman made a jumper with 4:50 left in the second quarter; their only points in the first quarter were on a pair of Rosengarten free throws.
Christopher Elchert hit a jumper with two seconds left in the first quarter to put the Tigers ahead 8-2, then Esser made a basket to open the second and increase the lead to eight points.
Elchert hit a 3 from the right wing with 3:24 left in the second to put Jackson Center ahead 13-5, but Rosengarten hit a 3 with 1:18 left and Brandewie made a 3 from the top of the key at the buzzer to bring the Redskins within 13-11 at halftime.
“The first 3 came off a loose ball rebound, and we were scrambling and they kicked it out for a good look,” Scott Elchert said. “… The 3 that Brandewie hit was just a tough shot. Our kid (defending) was right there. That’s just making a basketball play.”
Fort Loramie finishes 19-8 overall. The Redskins will lose five seniors to graduation, including Rosengarten and Raterman, who are multiple-year varsity players.
Fort Loramie will also lose Jake Ratermann, Carter Mescher and Mason Kemper to graduation.
Britton said he’s proud of the progress the team made after starting 3-4. The Redskins won 16 of their last 20 games, including a victory over Cincinnati Christian last Friday which earned the squad its third consecutive district title.
“We got on a roll, and I just can’t be more proud of a group of seniors and a group of guys that kept believing in themselves and kept trucking, kept playing and kept getting better,” Britton said. “To get here was a great accomplishment for them.”
Jackson Center shot 10 for 31 (32.3 percent) from the field while Fort Loramie shot 8 for 27 (29.6 percent). The Tigers owned a 26-16 rebounding advantage.
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.