FORT LORAMIE — Russia and Fort Loramie have been on the losing side of some lopsided nonconference games, and each hope they were good learning experiences heading into the second half of the season.
Both will have the chance to try to put the lessons learned on display in a Shelby County Athletic League showdown on Saturday.
Russia (9-2) travels to Fort Loramie (8-4) on Saturday for a matchup between the SCAL’s first-place teams. Both are tied at 5-0 in league standings and two games ahead of Anna, which is in third at 3-2.
Russia won its first eight games before suffering a pair of lopsided losses to Midwest Athletic Conference opponents late in December. The Raiders lost 60-33 to Minster on Dec. 23 and 53-30 to Versailles on Dec. 30.
The Raiders were in each game for a while but couldn’t keep up down the stretch. Coach Andy Timmerman said Minster and Versailles’ depth was tough for Russia to match, but said the experience taught a lesson.
“We can’t take anybody lightly,” Timmerman said. “Anybody that comes in, we’ve got to know that they can contribute. We’ve got to guard them just as well as anyone else. We can’t take a step back even if they’re not a starter. We’ve got to play hard every possession.”
Depth has been a big help to Fort Loramie. The Redskins have relied on multiple players scoring throughout the season, most notably in a 60-34 win over Houston on Dec. 22, when five players scored either 10 or nine points.
Fort Loramie finished December with nonconference wins over New Knoxville (44-41) and St. Henry (56-40), and coach Carla Siegel said she was pleased with the way the team played in the post in each game.
That had been a problem in a couple of nonconference losses earlier in the month, including a 48-31 loss to Versailles and a 59-41 loss to Tippecanoe. Both squads feature multiple players over 6-foot-0, while Loramie’s tallest player is 5-11.
Siegel credited 5-10 senior forward Abby Holthaus for helping lead the team’s improvement in the post.
“Physically, our girls just have to man-up better,” Siegel said. “We struggled at the beginning of the year to do that. I feel that Abby Holthaus has really stepped into her own, with senior leadership. She’s been playing post defense really well for us.”
The Redskins will have another challenge in the post against in Russia 6-0 junior center Laurissa Poling, who averages about 13 points per game.
“The other big thing we’ve been working on is our guards have to pressure on the perimeter more, so that way they’re not finding that big girl underneath,” Siegel said. “I felt we did a good job limiting touches against New Knoxville and St. Henry, who both have big power post players. That will be a game plan against Russia, try to limit Poling as much as we can in the paint.”
Siegel said she’s been pleased with the team’s improvement through the first half of the season but is looking for more over the next month.
The biggest area Loramie needs to improve according to Siegel is on offense. In its four losses, Fort Loramie has averaged 34.8 points per game.
“Our transition offense hasn’t been anything stellar in the first 11 games,” Siegel said. “But we are working on the things we have done wrong in those games, and hopefully in the next few games we’ll see our transition offense be successful.
“… Having those four big games early on definitely showed our girls a lot of our deficiencies, things we needed to concentrate on and work on more. Hopefully in these next few games, we’ll see what those losses taught us.”
Anna’s 20-point loss at Miami East last Saturday dropped the team to 5-5.
It was the third nonconference loss of the year for the Rockets, but coach Jeff Maurer is hoping it helps the team win more games in the second half of the season.
Anna’s other four losses came to New Bremen, Fort Loramie, Russia and Versailles. Including Miami East, the five teams have a combined record of 46-11.
“We’ve had a lot of close losses and would sure like for those close losses to be close wins, but I think we’re getting stronger and getting better,” Maurer said. “We told the girls in the locker room after (Thursday’s loss to Versailles) that we don’t play a lot of easy teams. We’ve got a tough schedule and want it that way so when we get to the tournament we’ve been through some wars. We’ve definitely been through some wars.”
Anna beat Botkins 49-24 on Thursday in SCAL action to improve to 6-5.
Contact Bryant Billing at (937) 538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter.