FORT LORAMIE — Fort Loramie had some early offensive struggles in games on its home court this week. But its defense ensured the results stayed the same as the rest of the team’s games.
The Redskins, which were ranked No. 2 in Division IV in the first Associated Press state poll of the season, held Russia scoreless in the first quarter and ran away late to a 47-20 Shelby County Athletic League victory on Thursday.
Fort Loramie (12-0, 7-0 SCAL) struggled to score early both on Thursday and in a 57-17 nonconference victory over New Bremen on Tuesday. But the squad tripled its scoring output in the second half of both contests.
The Redskins, which have have won every game by double-digit margins, shot 7 for 22 (32 percent) from the floor in the first half against Russia but shot about 60 percent from the floor in the second half.
“I have to give credit to our guards for their defensive pressure,” Fort Loramie coach Carla Siegel said. “… We got all the steals we wanted. We just had a hard time converting in that first half. I think the third quarter was huge for us to get going.”
Senior forward Dana Rose helped lead the squad’s offensive improvement in the second half. Rose, who had a team-high six rebounds, scored nine of her 15 points in the second half, including six in the third quarter.
Clara Gephart scored eight of her 10 points in the second half and Kenzie Hoelscher scored six of her eight points in the third quarter.
“When Dana started finishing her shots and Kenzie made a couple of baskets in the third quarter, I think that just kind of opened up the floodgates. Then everyone starts feeling good and everyone starts shooting.”
After playing four games in the last 21 days of December, Tuesday started a busy stretch for Fort Loramie. The Redskins are playing five games in the first 16 days of January, with a home nonconference game against Ottawa-Glandorf on Jan. 16 capping the stretch. The Titans were the top-ranked team in Div. III in the first state AP poll.
“We have a tough stretch coming up, but we’re just taking it a game at a time,” Siegel said.
It was the fifth consecutive loss for Russia (5-6), which has struggled to score through most the losing streak, though it tallied 55 points in a six-point loss at Minster on Saturday.
Thursday’s offensive struggles were a new low, though; the Raiders had scored at least 30 points in all of their other games.
“We’ve been practicing better and offensively we’ve made some strides forward over the last week or two, but today we took a step back again,” Russia coach Andy Timmerman said. “Their pressure is relentless for 32 minutes, and it’s tough to get things going.
“I thought our girls fought hard and I thought defensively we played well. We held them to 16 points in the first half, and with how many turnovers we had, I thought defensively we did a good job. Our transition defense was pretty decent.”
Fort Loramie struggled to score in the first quarter — but Russia struggled to even get a shot off. The Raiders committed several turnovers while trying to work the ball in the post, which helped the Redskins build an 8-0 lead heading into the second.
Fort Loramie scored the first eight points of the second. Kate Sherman made Russia’s first basket on a shot off the glass with 2:00 left in the second, but the squad trailed 16-4 at halftime.
The Redskins’ offense got going in the second half thanks in part to several steals. They outscored Russia 20-2 in the third, with eight points coming in the last two minutes.
Fort Loramie finished with 21 steals.
“When you turn it over, it’s tough to guard them in that fast-paced transition game,” Timmerman said.
Russia’s Reese Goubeaux hit two late 3-pointers to help lead a 14-11 scoring advantage in the fourth that trimmed the final gap to 27 points.
Goubeaux and Sherman, a 6-foot-0 sophomore forward, each finished with six points.
“I was really happy with our guard pressure,” Siegel said. “They have two really good post players (Sherman and junior Ella Hoehne), and we told our girls if they put pressure on their guards so they can’t find their big people, that would help us out.”
Fort Loramie is scheduled to travel to Jackson Center on Saturday while Russia is scheduled to host Houston.
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.