First annual MLK Classic at Fort Loramie a big success

Redskins take D-II powerhouse to the wire; Minster pulls off upset in overtime

Celebrating the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the first ever Fort Loramie High School MLK Classic combined leadership and educational experiences with elite competition before very good crowds all afternoon and evening long on Sunday.

“I hope MLK weekend includes this special program here at Fort Loramie for years to come,” said one out-of-town spectator who traveled four hours round-trip with his family of five to attend. “What a super venue. The school could not have staged a better inaugural event.”

The sparkling Fort Loramie gym featured a more dimly lit seating area for fans that helped cast an even brighter spotlight on schools and players showcased at center court.

Sunday attracted plenty of media coverage which had several excellent games and interesting stories to highlight. Entertaining, well-played contests — one after another — were decided by three points, five points and a tie-breaking extra session., which covered Botkins, now 13-1, and its one-point, double-overtime victory against Tri-Village at the Flyin’ to the Hoop at 11:30 a.m., also offered play-by-play and color of the 6 and 7:30 p.m. tilts at Fort Loramie. More than 1,700 listeners tuned to SCORES online and WMVR radio on Sunday night.

The final game of Sunday at Fort Loramie featured a highly talented, 6-4, junior guard-forward from Tiffin Columbian, who is being recruited by Conference USA and Mid-American Conference schools.

Logan Beaston of the Division II Columbian Tornadoes, ranked 13th in Ohio, poured in three, early, 30-footers and then handled the ball beautifully on the perimeter down the stretch as the visitors nipped D-IV Fort Loramie, 57-52, after trailing the upset-minded Redskins by seven late in the third quarter. The host team did an admirable job defending Beaston, whose 17 points were three below his game average.

Caleb Maurer continued his stellar play for the fast improving Redskins, now 8-6, with 16 points. Ty Ruhenkamp also shined, dropping in 16. Logan Eilerman and Isaac Raterman each drained 10 points.

Coming off a recent grind of nine games in 21 days, the Redskins are performing at their best clip of the season. But the schedule gets no easier. Anna, 5-9, and 26-point scorer McKane Finkenbine host Fort Loramie on Friday night. Marion Local, 9-2, and the towering 6-8 Jack Knapke, who is joined by solid wing shooters, await on Saturday.

Speaking of the Rockets, Anna lost a heartbreaker in game number three on Sunday. Bryce Cobb’s game-tying triple fell a couple inches short as unbeaten Springfield Catholic, now 14-0, nudged the Rockets, 49-46. Finkenbine fired home 24; Cobb, a dozen. The Irish are now the favorite to be the top seed in the Troy D-IV district.

In Sunday’s second game, Marion Local won its fourth of the week, conquering Columbus Grandview Heights, 51-35, with a very strong second half. Knapke sank 15 points to lead the way.

Heights, now 9-4, was ranked in AP’s D-IV top 10. Unrated Marion has handed Botkins its only loss. The Flyers were nipped earlier this month by Versailles, the state’s top-ranked club in D-III.

The triumph by Minster, 4-10, over three-loss Convoy Crestview in overtime was the stunner of the day. Freshman Brogan Stephey struck for 21 to pace the Wildcats in the 48-43 upset. Minster owned a ten-point halftime bulge.

Sunday’s Fort Loramie MLK Classic brought together eight schools representing a broad swath of the western, northern and central parts of the state. As we know, Anna and the Redskins hail from the Shelby County Athletic League. And, of course, Minster and Marion Local, which will return to the event next January, are Midwest Athletic Conference programs.

The Classic’s other schools were from a mix of leagues and conferences. Tiffin Columbian plays in the Sandusky Bay Conference; Columbus Grandview Heights takes part in the Mid-State League; Springfield Catholic Central participates in the Ohio Heritage Conference; and Convoy Crestview is a member of the Northwest Conference.

Coaches and school officials who traveled with their teams on Sunday were extremely pleased with the quality of the program that Fort Loramie organized and coordinated.

“It was class all the way,” said one school athletic director. A referee remarked, “Do not change a thing. Well-planned from start to finish. We had the chance to go to work for a lot of fine young players.”

Yes, the Flyin’ to the Hoop attracts more attention, more recruiters and more top talent from across the nation.

But Fort Loramie’s first annual MLK Classic garnered more Ohio media coverage, offered very good exposure for regional talent from the western half of the state, and presented a terrific venue for the 2,100-plus fans in the stands who would prefer to view “well-coached, highly skilled local teams” over schools at The Hoop from outside the area loaded with “over-hyped, star appeal.”

Sunday at Fort Loramie was such a great success the event might even expand to five games next January. One or two northern Ohio schools from upper OHSAA basketball divisions have already expressed their initial interest in appearing at the second annual Fort Loramie MLK Classic in January 2023.
Redskins take D-II powerhouse to the wire; Minster pulls off upset in overtime