RUSSIA — Fort Loramie added “18” to a banner on Friday and is hoping to add the number to a few more banners before the season was over.
After a close first half, Fort Loramie scored the last 13 points to pull away from Russia in a Shelby County Athletic League game to earn a 52-35 win at Clair C. Naveau Gymnasium.
Fort Loramie, Russia and Anna tie for first place in the SCAL with 10-2 league records as a result of Friday’s game and the Rockets’ 61-50 win over Fairlawn. It’s the first three-way tie since the 1975-76 season, when the same three schools tied for the league title with the same records.
“It means a lot, now that we can come back and look up there at the banner and know that we put that up there,” Fort Loramie junior guard Nathan Raterman said. “It’s been seven years since we won a conference title. It’s awesome to know that we did this.”
Russia (13-7) has won or shared the SCAL title each of the last five years. It’s the longest streak for any County team since Fort Loramie won the league six consecutive times from 1991 to 1996.
Russia already had a share of the title wrapped up before Friday’s game, but the Redskins needed the win to get a share. Though the Redskins have enjoyed much success the last three years, including earning at least 20 wins the last two years, an SCAL title had eluded them — as had regular-season wins over Russia.
With Friday’s win, Fort Loramie (20-2) completed a season sweep of the Raiders. Before the Redskins’ 47-32 win over Russia on Jan. 5, they hadn’t won a regular season matchup in the series since 2013. Before Friday’s win, they hadn’t won at Russia since 2012.
“We talked about it coming into tonight in our pregame,” Fort Loramie coach Corey Britton said. “This was a legacy-type game. It was a chance for them to put ‘18’ on a banner and bring their kids back one day and look up at that banner and remember they were league champs.
“It’s tough to do in our league. Our league is phenomenal year-in and year-out. To be able to claim the league championship, especially on the road in a tough environment against a really well-coached team, is a credit to our seniors. They made sure we were ready to go all week. We had great practices, and the attention to detail was really, really good tonight. I’m proud of our team, but I’m especially proud of our seniors for being able to accomplish this.”
Fort Loramie led 26-22 at halftime. Evan Monnier made a basket midway through to pull Russia within 30-28, but the Redskins took control from there.
Evan Berning and Nathan Raterman made free throws to put Loramie up 33-28 before the end of the third, then the Redskins scored the first five points of the fourth.
Tyler Siegel made a basket in the paint and a free throw after a foul and Dillon Braun made a layup off a pass from Berning to put the Redskins up 38-28. Braun had sat on the bench for most of the third quarter after picking up his third foul.
Russia didn’t pull any closer than four points the rest of the game. After Russia pulled within four, the Redskins scored the next 13 points.
Raterman led Fort Loramie with 16 points, including five in the fourth quarter. Britton said he was pleased with the performance of Raterman, who missed over two weeks after sustaining an ankle injury in a win over Minster on Jan. 20.
“He started the season really strong, really aggressive,” Britton said. “… After rolling his ankle, I don’t know if he ever got his aggressiveness back. We challenged him in practice and said if he’s not going to be aggressive in practice, we’re not going to put him in. He said he’d be ready to go, and all the credit goes to him. He stepped up and was super aggressive.”
Siegel scored 13 and Braun finished with 12, six of which came in the fourth.
After Loramie initially pushed its lead to 38-28, Russia switched to a 1-3-1 defense that confused the Redskins for a few minutes. Once the Redskins found ways to attack the basket, the Raiders’ effort fell apart.
Russia coach Spencer Cordonnier said he was extremely happy with the team’s effort. The Raiders returned two starters off last season’s team and had three other returnees that saw significant action a year ago.
“All we could ask for is a chance in the fourth quarter,” Russia coach Spencer Cordonnier said. “They’re a very good team with a lot of weapons, and it’s what are you going to take away. We got to the fourth there with a chance, and we just had a couple of miscues there to start the fourth quarter and they capitalized. We had to go for broke there and cut it back, but maybe too little, too late.
“But our kids battled; they battled all night long. I’m very, very proud of them. I can guarantee you, nobody thought we’d be in this position. Nobody. If somebody does tell you they did, they’re lying. I told somebody at the beginning of the season that we could win this thing. We were going to have to play well, but I believed it. We played two flawless games against Anna. Two beat those two teams, Anna and Fort Loramie, three out of four times, I knew it’d be hard, but I knew we could do it two out of four. We got ourselves a share. I’d go down fighting with this group any day.”
Fort Loramie took an early 8-3 lead, but Jack Dapore added a basket and a 3-pointer from the left wing to tie the game. Siegel hit a basket and Raterman made a put-back at the buzzer to give the Redskins a 12-8 lead.
Raterman hit a 3-pointer with 7:20 left in the second to give the Redskins a 15-10 lead. Fort Loramie led 26-17 late in the quarter, but Russia finished on a 5-0 run. Dapore finished the run with a 3-pointer with 1:25 left to pull the Raiders within 26-22. Dapore scored 15 points in the first half. He was the high scorer for the Raiders, though he didn’t score in the second half.
The teams will start tournament play next week. Fort Loramie is the No. 1 seed in the Piqua Division IV sectional and Russia is No. 2.
The Redskins will face No. 12 Mechanicsburg to open postseason play on Feb. 24. Russia will play the winner of No. 9 Lehman Catholic vs. No. 11 Covington on Feb. 27. All games in the sectional are at Piqua’s Garbry Gymnasium.
Raterman said the Redskins, who won a district title last year, hope to add “18” to a few tournament banners in the coming month.
“We’ve got to go back to practice and stick to the fundamentals,” Raterman said. “Practicing together. That’s huge; practices are huge these next couple of weeks. I’m looking forward to making a deep tournament run.”
Contact Bryant Billing at (937) 538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.