FORT LORAMIE — While winning a state championship isn’t quite an expectation each year for Fort Loramie’s girls basketball team, playing great defense is.
The Redskins lost seven seniors to graduation from last year’s Division IV state championship squad. New players are aplenty this year, and even with an impressive 2-0 start, coach Carla Siegel said there’s much to improve on.
But if one aspect of the Redskins’ playing style is still at an elite level, it’s their defense.
Fort Loramie improved to 2-0 on Tuesday by shutting down rival Russia in a 48-37 Shelby County Athletic League victory. It was the first league contest for both squads.
Russia unofficially finished with over 30 turnovers in Tuesday’s loss. In the Redskins’ 50-24 season-opening win over Miami East on Friday, the Redskins forced 22 turnovers.
Translation: Fort Loramie is still bringing pressure.
“The message is always the same, no matter what kind of team I have,” Siegel said. “The expectation at Loramie is defense. We win with defense, so we have to play great defense. That builds our offense.
“That expectation is still there, even though we have a youthful team. I still want great Loramie defense. I want defense, I want rotations, I want deflections, I want steals. The expectations are there, it’s just going to take a few more days, a few more weeks, until it gets to be what we want it to be.”
While newcomers make up most of the squad, three seniors led the squad in scoring on Tuesday. Senior forward Ava Sholtis, who is a four-year varsity player, scored 13 points, as did guard Colleen Brandewie. Riley Heitkamp, a guard, scored 10.
“That was pretty awesome,” Siegel said. “Their great senior leaders. Not only on defense did they do what they needed to do, but they did on the offensive end as well.”
Returning letterwinners in forward Alyson Schmitmeyer and guard Cara Meyer along with newcomer Aubrey Baker also display leadership Siegel wants from seniors.
Along with those six seniors, junior guard Ava Turner and junior forward Olivia Mescher round out the upperclassmen on the roster.
Several newcomers are seeing playing time, including freshman forward Avery Brandewie and 6-foot-0 freshman forward Victoria Mescher, who is one of only two players on the squad above 5-8 (the other being Sholtis, who is 5-10). Sophomore guards Skylar Albers and Jaden Rose round out the roster.
Avery Brandewie scored seven points in Tuesday’s win. She scored six against Miami East, as did Victoria Mescher. Albers scored five.
“They’re doing well so far,” Siegel said. “There’s still room to get better. Our defensive rotations are off; we’re not as effective as we were last year. But a lot of these girls played volleyball. I’ve only had them for maybe 12 days. So they’re just going to get better, especially those younger girls.
“They’re going to get better every day as the season goes on. They’re learning the system we want to put in place. I’m excited for the season. This was a big win for our team because of our youth. We just hope to build from here.”
Fort Loramie’s full-court press helped create a lot of turnovers last year and in a 26-0 campaign two years ago that was shortened due to COVID-19.
It was a stout half-court defense that flustered Russia on Tuesday.
Russia guards were stripped or lost control several times. But many of the turnovers came either from trying to pass into the post, or the squad’s post players losing control, oftentimes while being double-teamed.
It was a vastly different look for Russia (2-1), which got off to a fast start in its first two games last weekend.
The squad couldn’t speed things up to its liking on Tuesday. But Russia was within single digits for most of the game and pulled within five points about midway through the fourth quarter.
Despite the turnovers, the most costly issue was simply missing shots, almost all of which were at close range. The Raiders were also 5 for 13 at the free-throw line.
“We’re not very good at a half-court offense right now,” Russia coach Paul Bremigan said. “We were able to do some things our first two games that covered up that. But when you get somebody like Loramie that gets back, sits down and guards as well as they do, you have to be better at half-court offense.
“We weren’t. We didn’t get the shots we wanted to get.”
Fort Loramie shut down both of Russia’s tall post players. Kate Sherman, a 6-2 junior center, scored six points. Ella Hoehne, a 6-0 senior forward, scored two.
Hoehne scored 25 and 13 points, respectively, in Russia’s first two games. Sherman scored 10 and seven.
“We didn’t do a very good job of getting them the ball,” Bremigan said. “There were times they were open, and we didn’t get them the ball. There were times we got them the ball, and we didn’t convert. We missed some shots. It was kind of a double-edged sword.
“We’ve got to get better at what we do. It’s a long season. We’ll get better, we’ve just got to work more.”
Fort Loramie took an early 7-4 lead, but Russia pulled within 11-10 at the end of the first quarter. The Redskins pushed the lead to 23-18 at halftime thanks in part to Sholtis, who scored eight points in the second.
The Raiders pulled within three points midway through the third quarter, but Fort Loramie scored two baskets in 20 seconds to take a 33-26 lead.
Russia pulled within 38-33 with five minutes left in the third, but Sholtis made a layup to push the lead to seven points, and the Redskins continued to pull away from there. Avery Brandewie and Colleen Brandewie each scored five points in the fourth to help seal the win.
Cece Borchers led Russia with eight points. Sophie Francis scored seven. Simone Puthoff and Reese Goubeaux each scored six.
Both squads are scheduled to play next on Tuesday in SCAL action. Russia is scheduled to host Houston while Fort Loramie is scheduled to travel to Jackson Center.
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.