By Ken Barhorst
On the Fort Loramie athletic website (fortloramieathletics.com), athletic director Damon Smith showed just how excited he and the rest of the community is over the boys basketball team.
He led off his ticket-sale notice with the following: “we were only given 500 tickets at UD (district finals), but as the OHSAA is quickly learning, the Fort Loramie Faithful eat pre-sale tickets for breakfast!”
He went on to inform fans that for the regional, the school received 1,000 tickets to sell in advance of Tuesday night’s game, which is scheduled for Trent Arena in Kettering at 5:30.
Loramie fans have every right to be excited — the Redskins, despite being a still very young team, are just two wins away from from a state tournament berth, one that would end a long dry spell. Fort Loramie hasn’t sent a boys team to state since 1993.
“We’re looking forward to the big challenge,” said Loramie coach Corey Britton.
His Redskins take a 21-5 record into the regional, and will face Northwest Central Conference champion Lima Perry in the semifinals. Loramie isn’t familiar with Perry, having not played the Commodores this season, but is very familiar with the NWCC, having been a football-only member of the league from 2012 through this past season.
Perry comes into Tuesday’s contest with a 22-3 record, which includes a perfect 7-0 mark in the NWCC. There is no question which team has played the toughest schedule — Fort Loramie — but there are some common opponents, though not much can be gleaned from comparing them.
Both played Fort Recovery, Loramie during the regular season and Perry last week in the district championship. And both won by nine over the Indians.
Both played Minster, again Loramie during the regular season and Perry in the tournament. Loramie edged Minster 37-35 in overtime, and Perry won 62-50 in the district semifinals.
And both played Botkins during the regular season. Loramie beat the Trojans 53-34 and 71-34, and Perry won 91-50.
Britton, meanwhile, only knows one thing for certain.
“We’re going to have to really play well to give ourselves a chance to win,” he said.
The Commodores are led by NWCC two-time Player of the Year Jackoby Lane-Harvey and second-team all-conference pick Orion Monford. Lane-Harvey went over the 1,000-point mark in his career this season.
“I think they will be the best two guards we’ve seen all year,” said Britton of the two Commodores. “Lane-Harvey is an attacker, and the Monford kid does it all. He can get to the rim off the bounce. We’re going to have to contain them, keep them out of the lane, and be fundamentally sound on defense.”
Perry’s three losses came in succession, and all in late December to three D-2 schools in Lima Shawnee, Van Wert and Wapakoneta. The Commodores have since reeled off 18 wins in a row.
Despite Perry’s better overall record, its schedule doesn’t live up to Loramie’s this season. The Redskins’ five losses have been to Russia twice, Jackson Center, Fairlawn and Versailles.
Russia was the County champion, Fairlawn had Shelby County’s best record during the regular season at 18-3, Jackson Center reached the district finals, and Versailles is 25-1 and begin play in the D-3 Regional on Wednesday, also at Kettering Trent Arena.
“We play an unbelievable schedule every year and we take pride in that,” said Britton, whose team ended regular-season play with a five-point win over fellow district champion Tri-Village. “We like to compete. I don’t know if there was a turning point for us, but we did a great job of responding after a loss. We lost to Russia and Versailles, then had to go to Anna. But we won that one. Then after the overtime loss at Jackson Center, we went to Franklin-Monroe and won big. Then we lost to Russia and came back the next night and beat Tri-Village. So we’ve responded well to losses, and we’ve definitely grown up over the season.”
The Redskins have been led all season by their top three returnees in Evan Berning, Dillon Braun and 6-foot-7 Tyler Siegel, all of whom are juniors. And another junior, Austin Siegel, has been a big factor.
“Austin has turned into the player we always thought he would be,” Britton said. “He got hurt in football, so it took him a while to get his legs back. But he’s been huge for us in terms of energy and leadership.”
The fifth starter is a senior in Cody Gasson, and classmate Nate Pleiman is quick to contribute off the bench. And Britton said two more sophomores, Nate Raterman and Eli Rosengarten, and a freshman, Nick Brandewie, have also made an impact.
“It’s turned into a pretty good team,” said the coach. “We start four juniors and a senior, and bring another senior, two sophomores and a freshman off the bench. And it’s working. Hopefully, we give ourselves a chance this week.”