COLUMBUS — Minster girls basketball coach Mike Wiss gives each of his players note cards with goals written on them at the beginning of the week.
Wiss gave the team their final cards on Monday, and on starting freshman guard Ivy Wolf’s card, he wrote, “Let everyone know this little girl can play on this big stage.”
Wolf not only showed she could play on a big stage, but the Wildcats showed their superiority in a Division IV state semifinal.
Minster beat perennial state contender Waterford 46-31 on Thursday at the Schottenstein Center to advance to the Div. IV state championship game. The Wildcats (25-3) will face Ottoville (27-2) in the state title game at 10:45 a.m. on Saturday.
Waterford won the D-IV title in 2016 and finished as runner-up in 2015 and 2017. Despite the team’s familiarity in Columbus, Minster looked the most comfortable.
The Wildcats, which were in the state final four for the first time since 2010, terrorized Waterford’s shooters. Minster had 12 steals and forced the Waterford Wildcats into 18 turnovers. Waterford managed three offensive rebounds in the game and shot 9 for 33 (27.3 percent) from the field.
“We wanted to keep them in front of us because we knew how good they were when they put the ball on the floor,” Wiss said. “Second of all, we wanted to be able to have a high hand, keep your knees down and have a high hand on defense, which would hopefully take away some of their outside shooting. Number three, we wanted to rebound the dickens out of the basketball.”
Minster did all three and owned a 32-17 rebounding advantage for the game.
Wolf, a 5-foot-8 freshman, was a key to the team’s success. She scored eight points, had four rebounds and a team-high five assists and three steals.
Waterford pulled within six points midway through the third quarter, and Wolf scored a layup after a steal and pass from Courtney Prenger with 3:24 left. The basket put Minster ahead 29-21 and started an 11-2 run.
“How she handled it when people came in double teaming in the open field, sometimes to attack and sometimes to run the clock — she’s not a freshman anymore,” Wiss said of Wolf.
Prenger, a junior forward, led the Wildcats with 13 points and five rebounds while senior forward Taylor Kogge scored 10 points and had four rebounds.
The duo led the team’s rebounding effort and helped contain Waterford’s leading scorers Ali Kern and Megan Ball, who both averaged over 14 points per game. Kern scored 13 points on Thursday while Ball scored six.
“Our coaching staff prepped us like no other,” Prenger said. “Coach (Nann) Stechschulte said today before the game, ‘You know Waterford better than Waterford knows themselves.’ All week, every single day after practice, we got something to read, something to watch.”
Minster led 25-16 at halftime, and Kogge scored the first basket of the second half to extend the lead to 11. Waterford scored the next five points, after which Wiss called a timeout.
“We just had to make sure we’re focused,” Wiss said. “Once in the first quarter, once in the second quarter and two times in the third quarter, we weren’t matched up right. Sometimes a ball screen does that, sometimes a dribble handoff does that, and we have to call a switch. When you call a switch, sometimes a team that has Kern and Ball out there, they can take advantage of those situations.”
Kendra Thien added two free throws, Wolf hit a jumper and Demaris Wolf hit a 3-pointer to help Minster cap off its 11-2 run to finish the third quarter.
Waterford pulled within 41-31 with 1:41 left, but Wolf hit a free throw and Prenger hit a shot to put the Wildcats up by 13 with 1:15 left.
Minster has held opponents to 40 or less points in each of its last 10 games.
“We’ve been coming up with the 50-50 balls, we’ve been swatting rebounds, it’s kind of our m.o. right now,” Wiss said. “Defensive rebounding wins championships, and we’re fortunate to come back one more time.”
The Wildcats will face Ottoville on Saturday in the D-IV state title game. Ottoville beat New Washington Buckeye Central 44-25 in Thursday’s first semifinal.
Minster beat the Lady Green 55-54 in a nonconference game on Jan. 20.
“I had people from Minster tell me that the people from Ottoville said as they walked out of the gym… they wanted to see (us) again,” Wiss said. “It was only going to be one place, and that’s where we’re at.”
Ottoville has won 11 out of its last 12 games, with all of its tournament wins coming by 18 or more points.
Senior Bridget Landin leads the Lady Green with an average of 13.5 points and 10.2 rebounds per game while junior Kasey Knippen averages 11 points per game.
Landin, a 6-foot-0 senior, was named first team all-state earlier this week.
“Both teams play hard D, and I actually played with Bridget Landin in AAU this past season, and I love going up against her,” Prenger said. “It’ll be another battle, but we’re looking forward to it, for sure.”
Minster shot 17 for 38 (44.7 percent) from the field on Thursday.
Contact Bryant Billing at (937) 538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.