FORT LORAMIE — After controlling the first half, Fort Loramie had nearly lost its lead early fourth quarter of a Shelby County Athletic League showdown with rival Russia on Thursday.
But like it has many times this season, the Redskins responded when the pressure was on.
Fort Loramie controlled the last five minutes to pull away to a 54-41 victory over the Raiders and stay undefeated in SCAL play.
After winning by lopsided margins in almost every game the last few years, a more youthful squad has won several close contests this season. Five of the squad’s wins have come by margins of 10 points or less, including two SCAL victories over Anna.
“I’m proud of this team,” Fort Loramie coach Carla Siegel said. “They’ve done that quite a few times this year already, where we’ve gotten down or we let the game slip out of our hands, and we charge back. I think that’s important for this group.”
Cece Borchers made two free throws at the end of the third quarter to pull Russia within 36-33, then Kate Sherman made a basket early in the fourth to cut the gap to 36-35.
After having outscored Fort Loramie 17-10 in the third quarter to close the gap, the Raiders (12-4, 6-2 SCAL) couldn’t hit shots the rest of the game. A basket by Roni Poling late in the quarter was the only other field goal the team hit the rest of the game.
“I thought we had some good looks; they either go in, or they don’t,” Russia coach Paul Bremigan said. “We’ve got good shooters. I’m confident in our shooters. We just couldn’t hit some we needed to (late), and I thought we passed up some looks. That’s something we’ve got to talk about.
“(Fort Loramie was) able to hit a couple of shots and got about a seven point lead, and then it becomes a situation where you’ve got to foul.”
Skyler Albers and Avery Brandewie each made baskets to push Fort Loramie’s lead to 40-35, then Carissa Meyer made a basket and Ava Turner made a basket and a free throw after being fouled on a shot to cap off a 9-1 run and push the lead to 45-36.
The Redskins hit 10-of-16 free throws in the fourth quarter to help secure the win.
Brandewie, a sophomore forward, led Fort Loramie (13-1, 8-0) with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Albers, a junior, scored 10 points and had four steals. Turner, a senior and the team’s lone returning starter, scored 11 points and had five assists. Victoria Mescher, a sophomore forward, scored nine points.
Siegel said she’s been proud of the growth Brandewie, Albers and Mescher have displayed in taking on larger roles this season and from the contributions of newcomers like Meyer, who finished with six points.
“Their growth has been huge,” Siegel said. “I can’t say enough about them. …We’ve got a lot of different people putting in different pieces on the floor to help us out. We always stress teamwork, teamwork, teamwork, and this team is starting to figure out how important it is to help each other and talk to each other.”
Russia built an early 5-2 lead, but Fort Loramie finished the first quarter with a 14-2 run to take a 16-7 lead. The Raiders pulled within 23-16 in the second, but Fort Loramie scored the last three points of the quarter to take a 10-point halftime lead.
“We didn’t get a real good start defensively,” Bremigan said. “We changed some things up, and the kids responded and got back into it. We got it within one, but we missed some easy shots and missed some foul shots.
“… I think we had 15 turnovers in the first half and two turnovers the second half. That’s just something that we can’t have. Going down the road, when we’re talking about playing good team and playing in tournament, we can’t have that. But I was pleased with our effort. We had some kids come off the bench who haven’t played much varsity play well.”
Sherman led the Raiders with 10 points while Poling scored nine.
The victory gives Fort Loramie a two-game lead in SCAL standings over the second-place Raiders; all other SCAL teams have at least three league losses.
While the victory also likely secured the votes for Fort Loramie to earn the No. 1 seed in the Sidney Division IV sectional, the Redskins still have many tough games coming over the next three weeks. Aside from a rematch at Russia on Feb. 2, they’re scheduled to travel to Lima Bath on Jan. 21 and Marion Local on Feb. 7 in addition to hosting Findlay Liberty-Benton on Feb. 4.
Siegel said she’s hopeful the squad will continue to improve over the last weeks of regular season.
“To win by 13 against a team like this when we were up by one, I think that shows growth,” Siegel said. “I’m really proud of the improvement they’re making.”
Contact Bryant Billing at (937) 538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.