TROY — After a string of dominant 23 dominant victories, Fort Loramie got its closest game of the season in a Division IV district final against Franklin-Monroe on Saturday at Troy High School’s Trojan Activities Center.
If it was anyone but the top-ranked Redskins, though, “close” probably wouldn’t be appropriate to describe a 14-point victory.
Fort Loramie pulled away late to a 40-26 win over the Jets in front of a near-sellout crowd to capture its third consecutive district final and 10th in the last 11 years.
It’s the closest margin of victory this season for Fort Loramie, which has won 20 games by 30 or more points and has won 14 games by 50 or more points.
“Today was a lot different,” Fort Loramie sophomore forward Ava Sholtis said. “We played good defense and just had to keep fighting. I think we improved our defense in the second half and got them in foul trouble as we attacked more.”
Franklin-Monroe made 5-of-6 3-pointers in the first half and trailed 20-19 at halftime, but the Redskins clamped down on defense and scored the first nine points of the third quarter to pull away.
Chloe Peters made two foul shots to give Franklin-Monroe a one-point lead with 25 seconds left in the second quarter. Taylor Ratermann hit a long jumper with nine seconds left to give the squad a one-point halftime lead and hit a 3 with four minutes left in the third to push the squad’s lead to 25-19.
Sholtis then hit two foul shots and followed soon after with a basket to increase the squad’s lead to 10 points.
The Redskins moved better on offense in the second half and committed two turnovers after committing seven in the first half. They also continued their rebounding dominance; they finished the game with a 23-12 rebounding edge.
Fort Loramie’s dominance in the paint wasn’t just shown when rebounding. The Jets didn’t hit a shot in the post until the fourth quarter and made just 1-of-14 attempts from two-point range.
“I thought we did a good job of taking away the middle,” Fort Loramie coach Carla Siegel said. “Their (leading scorer) Corina Conley can attack so well and is such a fantastic player. We gave her a couple of open 3s in the second quarter, so we talked to the girls about staying closer to her. I think all the girls did the best they could.”
Franklin-Monroe pulled within 31-25 early in the fourth quarter, but Dana Rose made a basket with 6:47 left to increase the lead to eight points. Marissa Meiring hit 7-of-8 free throws in the final minutes to help Fort Loramie pull away.
Meiring led the squad with 16 points and had six rebounds while Sholtis had 12 points and a team-high nine rebounds and three blocks. Ratermann added seven points.
The Redskins (24-0) advance to face Danville in a regional semifinal at 6:15 p.m. on Thursday at Vandalia-Butler’s Student Activity Center. Danville beat Lancaster Fairfield Christian 50-42 in a district final on Saturday night at Ohio Dominican.
“I think we’ll have to keep up the hard work that we’ve had every day in practice,” Sholtis said of what it will take to win on Thursday. “We’ve got to get better and learn from what we’ve done today.”
Fort Loramie is looking to win a regional championship after falling to Minster in finals the last two years.
“I think we can, but we’ll have to play our best and put it all out there on the court,” Sholtis said.
Sholtis said though the squad has dominated and finished as the No. 1 ranked team in the Associated Press state poll, it has stayed even-keeled.
“We try not to listen to (outside talk),” Sholtis said. “We just work on being ourselves, getting better and improving every day.”
Fort Loramie took a 7-3 lead early in the first quarter and Sholtis made a put-back with 33 seconds left to put the team ahead 9-4.
Chloe Brumbaugh hit a 3 with six seconds left in the first to cut the gap to two points, then opened the second with a 3. Meiring made a 3 for Fort Loramie, but Conley then hit consecutive 3s to give the Jets a 16-12 lead with 5:12 left.
“I think we were a little tight in the first half,” Siegel said. “… The passing was a little high. Defensively, I wasn’t upset at all. We were talking and doing our rotations and everything was fine there. I was really disappointed with our offensive flow, but obviously Franklin-Monroe had something to do with that. They had a good game plan and I think they did a good job at matching our intensity.”
Fort Loramie will try to keep playing intensely on Thursday in Vandalia. A win on Thursday and in a regional final on Saturday would earn the program its first state berth since 2015.
“The expectations are high, and I think the girls are ready for it,” Siegel said. “It takes that whole philosophy of staying focused one game at a time. I think today we were a little too focused on today or not focused enough.
“We’ll definitely sit down and talk about it Monday, but I think the girls are going to be okay. This was a big game and the place was packed, so I think this was good just to sort of get this off your chest.”
Franklin-Monroe finishes 23-3 overall. The Jets will lose five seniors to graduation, including Conley, who led the team with nine points. Brumbaugh added seven.
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.