One of the most successful girls basketball programs in Ohio began in the fall of 1971 in Shelby County.
Coach Jane Poeppelman doesn’t like talking about that first season at Fort Loramie. It took her six years to capture that first league title. Since then she led the program to 10 first-place finishes and five second-place finishes, plus two regional championships. She once won 32 straight league games which was later broken by another Fort Loramie coach. After 22 years, Jane Poeppelman stepped down with 338 wins in 453 games.
Carla Siegel, present day Fort Loramie coach, played for Coach Poeppelman from 1985-86 through 1988-89. She played on three teams that were 12-0: 1986, 1988 and 1989.
Ten years later in November 1999, Carla Siegel took over the girls basketball program. After 20 years, Siegel has 12 first-place titles and four second place finishes. Her teams were state champions in 2011 (forfeit), 2013 and 2015. The Redskins were regional champs in 2006, 2010 and 2014 and have won numerous district titles under Siegel’s guidance.
Heading into this season, Siegel’s team have won 412 games. The program posted a record best of 27 wins in 2013, and three teams won 26 games. Last year’s Redskins (26-2) were a regional finalist with out a single senior on the team. This is very unusual!
Three Fort Loramie teams have had only one senior on the varsity team. In 1989-90, Nancy Schmitmeyer, was the only senior. Next year the squad was a regional champion. In 2003-04, Abby Ernst was the only senior. Next season the team finished first in the league and advanced to the regional finals. In 2011-12, Kylie Drees was the only senior. The next season the Redskins made the regional finals.
Will this year’s Fort Loramie team advance to Columbus? Maybe win a state championship? Will some optimistic Redskins fans be making hotel reservations in Columbus soon? Returning players are: Marissa Meiring (629 career points), Taylor Raterman (577), Kennedi Gephart (450), Kenzie Hoelscher (418), Dana Rose (254) and Ava Sholtis (185).
In the SCAL, Anna may be their only serious challenger. The Rockets have a streak of shooting 60 percent or better from the free-throw line dating back to the 2004 season.
Speaking of shooting, Breah Kuck made 52 3-point goals last season, breaking Anna’s school record. She also broke Anna’s single game record with nine in a December game. She also made eight in a January game. Returning players are Lauren Barhorst, Kiplyn Rowland, Ella Doseck and Michaela Ambos. Coach Jeff Maurer begins his third season.
Russia coach Andy Timmerman returns for his fourth season with a 57-21 overall record, including a 9-3 tournament record. Jenna Cordonnier capped her four-year career by playing in a school record 100 games. Returning are Jessica York, Olivia Moorman, Ashley Scott, Katelyn Monnin and Kendall Monnin.
Botkins coach Phil Groves, begins his second year losing four seniors. But he has seven players returning: Jill Greve, Carmen Heuker, Boston Paul, McKenna Maurer, Sydney Meyer, Aleah Johnson and Madison Wendel.
Fairlawn is led by Anna graduate Gavin Cathcart, beginning his fourth year. Last year his team posted an 8-16 record. Returning players are Lonna Heath, McCalla Huelskamp, Ashley Roush and Camri Cunduff.
At Jackson Center, coach Jeff Reese has six returning players with experience: Kylie Hartle, Elizabeth Hickey, Ashley Mullenkamp, Marion Shaffer and Gwen Prenger.
Houston coach Brad Allen begins his fifth year with 35 wins in 95 games. Returning players are Amber Stangel, Megan Maier, Mariah Booher, Catryn Mohler and Sammie Miller.
Houston begins this season having played in 1,003 games. The present league started in 1970 with Botkins, Houston, Fairlawn and Jackson Center. Anna, Fort Loramie and Russia joined in later years. Shelby County girls basketball has come a long way since resuming play in 1970 after a 30-year absence.
Fairlawn coach Justin Tidwell stepped down after seven seasons having the most wins in Fairlawn school history. He had a 94-73 career record and 7-7 tournament record. Tidwell had the honor and privilege of coaching Nathan Lessing, Shelby County’s all-time leading scorer. He graduated in 2017 after scoring 2,223 points, breaking a 29-year record held by Fort Loramie’s Tom Brandewie.
New coach Brad Francis is no stranger to Shelby County basketball. He was assistant varsity coach under Russia coach Paul Bremigan. Two years ago he was Houston’s varsity basketball coach. The Jets have the Piper twins back as juniors with two years varsity experience. Ashton Piper has 680 career points while Skyler Piper has 547. Isaac Ambos and Dominic Davis return with valuable varsity experience.
Anna coach Nate Barhorst (1997 grad.) and J.T. Tidwell (2007 grad.) are fellow Anna High School graduates. Coach Barhorst has eight wins and six losses vs. Justin’s Jets.
The Rockets are looking to bring home their third-straight SCAL basketball title. Veteran players returning are Isaac Lininger, Kameron Steward, Justin Murray and Bryce Meyer. They join guards and football stars in QB Bart Bixler and RB Riley Huelskamp not only to win a league title but to win a regional title. Only two Anna coaches have won three-straight SCAL titles: Matt Meyer (2008, 2009, 2010) and Bob Anderson (1974, 1975, and 1976).
Jackson Center finished second to Anna last year, then went on a tournament run. The Tigers won a district championship and finished as Regional runner-up. Their last opponent was St. Henry, whom they defeated in 2012 on their way to Columbus. In their second all-time meeting, senior Trent Platfoot poured in a career high 28 points in his 98th varsity game.
The Dean of Shelby County coaches, Scott Elchert, begins his 20th season as the Tiger Headmaster. His record 289 wins in 459 games. Aidan Reichert, last year’s leading scorer, and Calvin Winner (injured last year) return along with Christopher Elchert (coach’s son). Reichert and Winner provide the muscle and Elchert the long range shooting (92 career 3-pointers).
Fort Loramie’s coach, Corey Britton, begins his sixth year with a five-year record of 93-29 (70 percent). Last year’s players broke a Fort Loramie school record with 142 3-point goals (13 in one game). Players returning are Nick Brandewie, Grant Albers, Nate Meyer, Damon Mescher and Collin Moore.
Last year Botkins put on a long range shooting clinic never before seen in Shelby County. For the record 11 different Trojans set a school record of 179 three-point goals. The previous record was 159 by the 1993-94 Botkins team.
The young shooters also scored 16 three-point goals in one game, tying the County record held by Anna, set in 2002. And the Trojans did it twice. Returning are Elliot Goubeaux, Zane Paul, Denton Homan, Tyler Free, Jayden Wendel, Jayden-Priddy Powell and Jake Pleiman.
Houston boys hit 62 percent of their free throws last year, the Wildcats’ best in five years. To close out the season, Houston won five of the last nine games. Coach Mark Platfoot (Jackson Center grad.) begins his third year with six returning lettermen led by Jairon Douglas, Brennan Arnold and Adam Winner.
Russia coach Dave Borchers used only eight players last year. Only Mason Dapore and Adam Dapore return. Mason Dapore broke the school record when he made 25 consecutive free throws. From Jan. 22 thru Feb. 12, Mason made 32-of-33 FT. Other school records Mason broke were season FT percentage (86 percent) and Career FT percentage (84 percent, 106-of-126).
Coach Borchers has the task of finding players to keep the Raiders winning tradition going for the Russia community. The Raiders have finished above .500 for six straight seasons.
Wise is a historian of Shelby County Athletic League boys and girls basketball. His work has appeared for decades in the Sidney Daily News, and he authored a book on the league’s history in the 90’s.