Fort Loramie’s girls basketball team has lost to Minster in Division IV regional finals the last two years.
With every player back from last year’s 26-2 campaign that finished ranked No. 1 in D-IV in the state AP poll, the program will look to get over the hump and return to the final four for the first time since 2015.
“I feel like we have 10 players that can consistently play at a high level,” 21st-year head coach Carla Siegel said. “Each of these girls have ton of varsity experience. We can shoot effectively from the outside and we have the height this year to pound the ball inside. In practice, we are challenging our girls to be stronger on the boards.”
The Redskins, which are off to a 6-0 start, return last season’s Shelby County Athletic League player of the year in Marissa Meiring and all four of their others starters.
The squad will have a different starting lineup, though, as 5-11 junior forward Dana Rose will play in the post full time after splitting time at point guard last season.
Meiring, a 5-foot-8 senior forward, is one of several returning post players. She averaged 10.2 points and 6.3 rebounds per game last year. Rose, who was first team all-SCAL last season, averaged eight points and four rebounds per game.
Senior guards Kennedi Gephart and Taylor Ratermann and junior forward Kenzie Hoelscher were also starters last year. Hoelscher averaged 7.1 points and a team-best 2.5 assists and 1.3 blocks per game last year. Gephart averaged 6.6 points last season while Ratermann averaged 6.9 points.
“They all have two to three years of varsity experience and provide a solid foundation for our team,” Siegel said.
The rest of the returnees are junior guards Caitlyn Gasson and Corynn Heitkamp, junior forward Jadyn Puthoff, senior guard Macy Imwalle and sophomore forward Ava Sholtis. Sholtis was one of the first players off the bench and averaged 7.4 points and 5.4 rebounds per game.
The squad has one new addition in 5-8 sophomore forward Colleen Brandewie.
“She has great instincts on the floor,” Siegel said of Brandewie. “She will be a great addition to our defense and our offense. Can play inside and outside.”
The Redskins look to have the ability to run their motion offense and man-to-man defense at a faster pace this year than last. They’ve overwhelmed every opponent they’ve played so far — including Minster in a season opener — and have won their first six games by an average score of 67.5-19.1.
“We want to get after it on defense,” Siegel, who picked up her 400th career win last season, said. “Our defense fuels our offense. We want to pressure the ball. On offense, we want to push the ball and try to get a few transition points in each game. In the half court, we want to execute our game plan and get the shots we want.”
Aside from its SCAL slate, the squad has many tough nonconference opponents remaining, including Midwest Athletic Conference members Marion Local, Versailles and New Bremen. The squad will also face Loudonville on Jan. 18 in the first game in the three-day Classic in the Country at Berlin Hiland and will close regular-season play by hosting Findlay Liberty-Benton on Feb. 15.
Anna returns all starters
The Rockets were the only SCAL team to play Fort Loramie close last season and will look to again be among the SCAL’s best teams this year with every starter back.
The Rockets, which are off to a 4-1 start, finished second in SCAL play last year behind Fort Loramie with a 10-2 record. Though they return every starter like Fort Loramie, they don’t have any other returnees back. Five newcomers will look to develop into dependable bench players.
“We are hoping to build upon the success of last year’s team,” third-year coach Jeff Maurer said. “While it is nice to have a good core of returning players with varsity experience, the girls understand that experience alone does not guarantee success. It will take hard work, team work and discipline to reach our goals for the season.”
The squad returns its top two scorers from last season in 6-2 senior center Lauren Barhorst and 5-6 junior point guard Ella Doseck. Barhorst, who was a first team all-SCAL selection last year, averaged a team-best 10.7 points and 6.5 rebounds per game while Doseck averaged 8.2 points and a team-best three steals and three assists per game.
“Laura had an outstanding season and we are expecting big things from her this season,” Maurer said. “Ella will be looked upon this year to be a team leader.”
The team’s other returning starters are 5-10 senior forward Kiplyn Rowland, 5-6 junior guard Mary Landis and 5-4 senior guard Michaela Ambos. Rowland averaged 6.6 points per game.
“Kiplyn will be asked to be more assertive on offense this season,” Maurer said. “Michaela was our defensive stopper last year and is a real competitor. She does a nice job of handling the ball for us and will be asked to take more leadership responsibilities. Mary has worked hard during the offseason to improve her offensive skills and will definitely provide our team with high energy and intensity.”
Key newcomers include sophomore forward Lenna Rowland, sophomore center Molly Rioch and sophomore guards Hope Bixler, Kayli Brewer and Breann Reaman.
“Our coaching staff has been very pleased with the development of our younger players and are hopeful that several sophomores make an impact for our team as the season progresses,” Maurer said. “The girls have been extremely coachable and I am eager to watch the development of this team as the season gets into gear.”
Maurer said the Redskins are the favorites to win the league.
“The rest of the league should be very competitive as usual,” Maurer said. “The SCAL is full of tough players and great coaches. I look forward to another year of great competition.”
Russia looks to keep up recent success
Russia has posted a 54-22 record the last three years and advanced to at least a district semifinal each season. The Raiders, which are off to a 3-3 start, will try to keep up the success with two returning starters and three other returning letterwinners.
“I’ve been excited about the competition we’ve had in practice and how the girls are pushing each other to get better every day,” fourth-year Russia coach Andy Timmerman said.
The team’s two returning starters are 5-10 senior forward Jessica York and 5-8 junior guard Ashley Scott. Scott averaged 6.7 points and 2.4 rebounds per game last year while York averaged 3.7 points. Each averaged 1.2 blocks per game.
Senior guard Olivia Moorman, junior forward Katelyn Monnin and junior guard Kendall Monnin are the team’s other returning letterwinners.
“All returners are juniors and seniors and have been in the program for a couple of years, so they know the expectations and are familiar with the system,” Timmerman said. “We are looking at these girls to step into new roles this year to fill the spots left behind by our four graduated players.”
Key newcomers include 6-0 sophomore forward Ella Hoehne, senior forward Alana Gariety and senior guard Andrea Monnin.
“They’ve battled hard over the years in high school and are ready to take the next step in contributing in multiple ways,” Timmerman said. “We have three different types of plays who add depth to our five returners.”
Timmerman said Fort Loramie is the league’s favorite and the other teams will fight it out behind them.
“There’s a lot of underclassmen talent who looks to shine more this year for multiple teams,” Timmerman said.
Houston has mostly new players
Houston lost all but one starter and three total letterwinners from last season’s 9-14 squad and is looking for other players to take over key roles.
“We are very young and not very tall or very deep,” eighth-year Houston coach Brad Allen said. “We will be quick, scrappy and fierce and will take the court competing each night. We will be bringing a new style of play utilizing our new strengths.”
Junior guard Amber Stangel is the team’s lone returning starter while junior guard Mariah Booher and sophomore point guard Megan Maier are returning letterwinners. Stangel averaged 9.1 points and 4.5 rebounds per game last season.
“Amber can score in all three spots on the court and has the potential to be an area leader in points scored,” Allen said. “… Her prior experience will help guide the youth on this team. Mariah played in 19 games last year and is very quick and can get to the basket. She brings a positive attitude and has a way of getting the girls pumped up.
“Megan came on strong as one of our guards at the end of last season. She has extreme quickness and uses her talents well. She is very aggressive and is a good decision maker.”
Houston, which is off to an 0-5 start, has three key newcomers in 5-8 freshman post Taylor Maxwell, 5-10 sophomore post Kiannah Jones and sophomore guard Rylie Voisard.
“Rylie is very athletic and has a really nice jump shot,” Allen said. “Kiannah has improved greatly from last year. We are looking for her to transition from a wing and play more post this year. Taylor will help round out our varsity and will be asked to help with rebounding, guarding the post and scoring inside. She comes with a great attitude and a willingness to learn.”
Fairlawn looking to continue improvement
Fairlawn had its highest win total since the 2014-15 season last year and will look to continue the improvement with four returning starters and six total returning letterwinners from last year’s 8-16 squad.
“I feel like we will be competitive in the league this year and our goal is to be over .500,” fourth-year coach Gavin Cathcart said. “It’s been a long time since the program had a winning record and we feel like we have the team to do it this year.”
The squad’s returning starters are senior post MaCalla Huelskamp, junior guard Ashley Roush and sophomores Lonna Heath and Camri Cundiff.
Heath, a 5-9 forward, averaged 8.1 points per game last year. Huelskamp averaged a team-best 6.5 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game.
“MaCalla is the team leader on and off the court,” Cathcart said. “She does all the little things right and fills the stat sheet. Lonna is a straight scorer, hard worker. She is going to have a big year. Ashley is a big-time rebounder and most improved player on the team. Camri is the best ball handler I’ve coached.”
Senior Breanna Rufus and junior Lexi Graves are returning letterwinners.
“Lexi is coming off a knee injury and is now 100 percent,” Cathcart said. “She’s our best defensive player. Breanna is a very good shooter.”
The Jets are off to a 2-4 start.
Botkins looks for better SCAL finish
Despite losing several starters and the program’s all-time leading scorer in Sarah Bergman from the 2017-18 team, Botkins didn’t have much of a drop off last season and finished 10-13. The Trojans are off to a 4-1 start and are looking to improve on last year’s sixth-place SCAL finish.
The squad has two returning starters in sophomores Carmen Heuker and Boston Paul. Heuker, a 5-6 guard, averaged 8.3 points, five rebounds, 4.1 assists and 3.5 steals per game last season. Paul, a 5-7 guard, averaged 5.2 rebounds and 3.2 rebounds.
Other returning letterwinners are 5-9 junior post Jill Greve and 5-8 junior guard Makenna Maurer. Maurer averaged 5.3 points per game last season while Greve averaged 3.8 points and five rebounds.
The team has a host of key newcomers: senior guard Kinley Topp, sophomore post Aleah Johnson, junior guard Madison Wendel, sophomore post Emma Pax, senior forward Madison Gerstner and freshman guards Lydia Dietz and Kennedi Doseck.
“Our returning letterwinners provide great leadership and our players put in a significant amount of time this summer,” second-year coach Phil Groves said. “Some of our players are just returning after injuries incurred from their fall sports season, so we are anxious to get our entire squad back together and healthy.
“We lost four seniors from last year’s team and our younger players are working hard to fill the void that was left due to graduation. We look forward to competing every night and improving throughout the season.”
Jackson Center has mostly new players
Jackson Center will be looking for improvement with two letterwinners returning off last season’s 1-21 squad.
The Tigers, which have already bested last year’s win total and are off to a 2-3 start, have two returning starters in junior guard Ashley Mullenhour and senior guard Kylie Hartle.
The team will have added height this year with newcomers in 6-0 junior center Katie Clark and 6-0 freshman forward Regan Clark.
“We are fairly inexperienced at the varsity level,” fourth-year coach Jeff Reese said. “With movement and intensity, we hope to create opportunities for high-percentage shots.
“Ashley and Kylie bring varsity experience, which will translate into being leaders and bring much-needed energy. The size and strength Katie and Regan bring to the team will help in numerous ways, including inside game, rebounds and defense in the paint.”
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.