DAYTON — A year later, Fort Loramie senior forward Kenzie Hoelscher and her teammates finally got to see what comes after the anticipation experienced on a bus ride to a state semifinal.
Fort Loramie dominated Convoy Crestview 66-24 in a Division IV state semifinal on Thursday at University of Dayton Arena to earn a spot in the championship game on Saturday.
The Redskins (28-1) will face McDonald (24-2) in the Div. IV state final on Saturday morning. The Blue Devils beat Waterford 57-29 in Thursday’s second D-IV semifinal.
Thursday’s win came almost a year to the day the Redskins were driving to Columbus for a state semifinal when the Ohio High School Athletic Association indefinitely postponed the tournament due to COVID-19. The tournament was canceled a couple of weeks later.
“On the way here, it finally kicked in: we’re playing in a state tournament,” Hoelscher said. “… We’re one of the only teams that are back from last year that didn’t get to play, so I think we used that as a fire in our bellies. That gave us a little bit more determination to go out and finish what we didn’t get to last year.”
The Redskins were undefeated last year, finished ranked No. 1 in the Div. IV Associated Press state poll and looked to be the prohibitive favorite to win the title.
Aside from the fact that Fort Loramie lost a nonconference game this season and that the tournament was moved to Dayton, everything’s the same this year.
Any doubts to the Redskins’ ability should have been erased by halftime on Tuesday. They forced Crestview into 15 turnovers and raced out to a 40-18 lead.
“We always stress at Fort Loramie that our defense creates our offense,” Fort Loramie coach Carla Siegel said. “We wanted to force them into turnovers so that we could get our transition game going.
“… We sprint the floor hard, and these girls work tirelessly at what we try to do. So if we can get deflections and we can get steals, we can pass the ball ahead and we can get some easy looks, and that just separates the game.”
Dana Rose led Fort Loramie with 22 points, 12 of which came in the first half. She also had a team-high seven rebounds.
“Our passing was very good,” Rose said. “We had good, crisp passes like we needed to. Kenzie assisted me a lot, and everyone else did. I’d say it was an overall team effort.”
Hoelscher scored 12 points while Corynn Heitkamp scored 10 and Caitlyn Gasson scored eight.
Junior forward Ava Sholtis, who rejoined the team late in February after recuperating from an ACL tear, scored six points and had five rebounds and four assists.
“This team, I can’t say enough about their unity, their chemistry,” Siegel said. “They’re family. They’re best friends; they’re sisters. It’s all on them.
“I’m the coach. I push them and drive them, but they’re the ones that have to do it on the floor. That they did today.”
Fort Loramie scored the first six points but the Knights went on a 7-2 run to pull within one point. Laci McCoy hit a jumper with 1:26 left to bring Crestview within one point again at 10-9, but Fort Loramie quickly pulled away.
Rose hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key with just under one minute left, then scored about 20 seconds later after a Crestview turnover to increase the lead to 15-9.
Sholtis made a put-back just before the buzzer to cap off a 7-0 run in 60 seconds and extend the lead to eight heading into the second quarter.
Myia Etzler opened the second with a jumper for Crestview to cut the gap to six, but Fort Loramie scored the next seven points and led by double digits the rest of the way.
“Our girls were amped up in that first quarter and missed some shots they normally would make,” Siegel said. “… I just think we finally settled down in that second quarter. I just feel that second quarter, we started playing more relaxed rather than trying to make something happen.”
After the Redskins pushed the lead to 22 points by the end of the first half, they used an 18-4 scoring edge in the third to take a 58-22 lead. The last points came on free throws by Rose, which caused the rest of the game to be played with a running clock due to the gap surpassing 35 points.
Fort Loramie shot 25 for 54 (46.3 percent) from the floor and had 19 assists and three turnovers. The squad outrebounded Crestview 30-27.
The Knights shot 11 for 36 (30.6 percent) from the floor and committed 24 turnovers.
“We thought our defense would cause them some problems, but I wasn’t expecting it to cause that many problems,” Siegel said. “I can’t say enough about our senior leadership, the rotations on defense, taking away their pick and rolls. The communication was phenomenal today.”
Crestview, which started three underclassmen, finishes 23-4 overall.
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.