FORT LORAMIE — There’s good. There’s great. There’s superb.
Then there’s the Fort Loramie steamroller.
Fort Loramie’s girls basketball team has dominated at a level not seen before in Carla Siegel’s 21 years at the team’s helm. Even in the team’s state championship campaigns in 2013 and 2015, there were occasional close wins — and losses.
That hasn’t happened this season for the Redskins, which have been ranked No. 1 in Division IV in the state Associated Press poll all year. A 21-point victory at Versailles last Saturday is the smallest margin they’ve won by this year. They hadn’t allowed more than 28 points in a game until Versailles scored 41.
Fort Loramie improved to 18-0 overall and 10-0 in Shelby County Athletic League play with an 89-16 victory over Jackson Center on Thursday. That’s been a typical result for the team, which has averaged 74.4 points per game and held opponents to an average of 21.1.
“We ask our girls to play hard and have fun every night, and they do,” Siegel said. “You saw that tonight. The bench is always cheering for everybody on the floor. They’re happy when other people are doing well.
“… I don’t think this group has been complacent at all. They’ve been very focused and very driven. That makes my job a little easier.”
The main reason for the lopsided scores has been the team’s suffocating full-court, man-to-man pressure defense that has produced an average of 23.2 steals per contest. The Redskins have made it incredibly difficult for most opponents — including the likes of Anna (14-5), New Knoxville (12-6) and defending D-IV state champion Minster (15-3) — to get off a shot, let alone run anything resembling an offensive set for more than a couple of possessions a game.
Those turnovers have fueled the team’s balanced scoring. Five players average between 8.4 and 11.2 points per game.
“There’s no ego on this team,” Siegel said. “They’re extremely selfless. They truly want everybody to play well and help everybody play well. I tip my hat to the seniors for their leadership. I think they’ve done a great job this year. They’ve got everyone on the same page.”
Senior Marissa Meiring was named the Shelby County Athletic League player of the year last season. With the balance the team has, she’s averaging about one less point and two less rebounds per game.
“With these (lopsided) games we’ve been playing, all of our starters are only playing about 15 or 16 minutes,” Siegel said. “… The selflessness has been amazing. Marissa hasn’t complained; no one has complained. They’re okay with it.
“No one is interested in their individual stats. They all just want to win. They want to play hard and they want to win, and that’s what they’ve been doing.”
The Redskins normally play a rotation of 10 players, and all of their 13 of their varsity players would likely have key roles (if not start) on any other SCAL team.
“It can be hard to (pick who to play), because they all deserve to be on the floor,” Siegel said. “They give everything they have. That’s one of the things we like about this team; we can just keep rotating and rotating and hopefully wear out the other team by the end of the first half or end of the game.”
Junior forward Dana Rose leads the squad with an average of 11.2 points per game while sophomore forward Ava Sholtis averages 10.5 points and a team-best 3.3 steals per game. Meiring averages 9.9 points per game, senior guard Taylor Ratermann averages 9.3 points and junior forward Kenzie Hoelscher averages 8.4 points.
Sholtis, Hoelscher, Rose and Meiring all average between 4.0 and 4.8 rebounds per game. Junior guard Caitlyn Gasson averages a team-best 2.8 assists per game. The team averages 20.9 assists per game.
The Redskins, which will travel to Anna for a key SCAL game on Saturday, will almost surely receive the No. 1 seed in the Sidney D-IV sectional meeting on Sunday. Seeding meetings for all Southwest Ohio teams will occur on Sunday and the first games are scheduled for Feb. 13.
The only area that could be an issue for Fort Loramie earning its first regional title and state berth in five years is a lack of height. The squad doesn’t have a player taller than 5-foot-11.
It hasn’t hurt Fort Loramie yet, though — including against Versailles, which has a host of players over 6-2.
The squad started a bit slow on Thursday as it missed some shots and couldn’t get offensive rebounds over Jackson Center 6-1 junior forward Katie Clark.
But the Redskins picked up their defensive pressure and started creating turnovers to quickly turn a 9-5 lead late in the first quarter to a 44-12 lead by halftime.
“I told the girls at halftime I wasn’t happy with the rebounding in the first quarter, and I just felt like maybe we were playing on our heels,” Siegel said. “… There are things we need to get better at, and that’s what we’ll be working on from here to the end.”
The experience avoiding complacency will likely come in handy during the tournament. Depending on how other top seeds in the Sidney sectional choose to place themselves, there may not be any squad with a winning record that opts to go into Fort Loramie’s bracket.
Meaning 60-point postseason victories could well be norm for Fort Loramie until at least a district final.
“Our practices get us ready,” Siegel said. “They’re high energy and intense. They’re great. That’s what will get us ready for the big games down the road.”
Siegel said a day-by-day approach has been used all through regular season and will be used come tournament time. Though long-term goals are usually set at the beginning of the season, that didn’t happen this year because many of the team’s players also participated on the school’s volleyball squad, which advanced to a state final.
“We never had time for that preseason meeting because the season started so quickly after that,” Siegel said.
“… We’re doing great, but we know we can do better. That’s what we strive for every day in practice.”
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.