Last Thursday evening I was one of the earliest arrivals on press row for the girls regional basketball semifinal between Fort Loramie and Minster, who were considered the top two entries in the four team field at Vandalia.
A colleague inquired as to my purpose on that night and I responded, “I’m in search of material for my Friday Sports Extra column. If I go to enough games and talk to enough folks, many good topics will find me.” Minutes later, such a situation presented itself.
I was visiting with Loramie assistant coach Phil Barhorst when we were approached by mutual friend Kirk Martin, the retired and ultra successful girls basketball coach at both Southeastern High School and Cedarville University. He had one thing on his mind and Phil would respond with insight that surprised Martin, who was assisting the event manager on this night.
“How did Loramie and Minster end up playing each other in the regional semifinals rather than the finals?” Kirk queried.
It’s a legitimate question and one that required a Fort Loramie perspective since Minster had no choice in the matter. Minster was the champion of the Wapakoneta district which produced only one winner, so their slot on the pre-drawn regional bracket was inflexible.
Loramie came out of the Troy district which had three champs, allowing flexibility when the Redskins took their slot for the opening round of the sectional which would lead through the district and to the regional.
Coach Carla Siegel’s club was the top seed, and nobody wanted to play them when there was a better opportunity for advancement elsewhere on the bracket. This Loramie squad was a prohibitive favorite to win the district, so their focus at the sectional draw became the route to the regional.
By immediately entering the lower sectional bracket at Sidney, that set up a potential Minster rematch in the regional semis when conventional wisdom would seem to dictate that game as a regional final. Coaches usually delay top matchups until absolutely necessary.
Did the Redskins feel superior to the Wildcats? Did they not care when they met? Was this a slap at their neighboring rival? None of these, actually. This was really a show of respect that originated with former player and coaching staff member Tracy (Steinke) Schulze. “Credit her with the idea,” Barhorst told us.
Her analysis involved the timing of the two regional rounds. Here in 2021, the regional semifinal is five days after the district final. The regional title affair is then just two days later.
In other words, there’s more than double the amount of time to prepare for the semifinal. The premise of Tracy’s input was that the greater preparation time should be devoted to the best potential opponent. Thus it made sense for the two to meet on the first night of the regional. Several years back, the Loramie coaching staff endorsed the strategy for that particular set of circumstances.
This approach was anything but traditional as evidenced by Martin’s perplexed inquiry. He digested the information and finally admitted that he grasped and accepted it. I asked him if he’d employ it himself if he were still coaching. “I’m not sure about that but I’d consider it. The idea has merit.”
Fort Loramie went on to defeat Minster by 11 after the Wildcats almost put it away in the first three frames. Two nights later the Redskins dominated Tri-Village in the first half and coasted home with a 24-point verdict. At halftime of the championship game a smiling Kirk Martin approached me to admit that “this all worked out very well for Fort Loramie but I’m still not sure it’s for me.”
Sports Extra appears each Friday. It’s inspired by a Dave Ross radio show of the same name from the 1980’s. Ross is the senior member of the OHSAA Media Advisory Committee.