The Minster Wildcats and the Fort Loramie Redskins both had their moments of stress Thursday night…but the state’s top two Division IV teams survived stern tests to set up an epic rematch for the regional championship.
Thursday night at the Student Activity Center in Vandalia, that’s exactly what second-ranked Minster and top-ranked Fort Loramie did. They survived.
The Wildcats bolted to an early 17 point lead, then used a free throw clinic in the fourth quarter to eliminate third-ranked Tri-Village 60-50, while the Redskins found themselves down 4 midway through the third quarter before coming back to stop upstart Legacy Christian 47-39.
The results set up an epic rematch Saturday for the regional title and a berth in Columbus. Minster beat Loramie for the regional title last year, and the Redskins beat the Wildcats in double overtime in January—Minster’s only loss in the last 38 games.
Minster started the opener red-hot—Demaris Wolf, Ivy Wolf and Jessica Falk drilled three pointers to stake the Wildcats to an 18-7 advantage. The lead reached 17 early in the second quarter before Tri Village went on a 12-4 run, and the Wildcats led 32-21 at the break.
“Demarius really got us going in the first half,” Minster coach Mike Wiss said of the 5-10 senior. “I was happy with our effort in the first half. Their high-low game gave us some trouble and that is all we talked about at halftime, limiting touches for the big kids inside.
“The game changed in the second half because of the way fouls were being called. We want to get in your bubble, make you as uncomfortable as possible. Maybe we got a little too close at times.”
The Patriots kept the pressure on in the second half, trailing by 7 after 3 and getting within 6 late in the fourth quarter. But Ivy Wolf went 6 for 6 from the line and Demarius Wolf hit four straight from the stripe as the Wildcats went 15 for 18 from the line in the final 8 minutes.
“We scored 21 points in the fourth quarter, and only had 3 baskets,” Wiss said, shaking his head. “We made more free throws (21) than they shot (20). That will win you games. Tri-Village is a great team, and I have a lot of respect for what Coach (Brad) Gray does over there.
“There is a lot of heart in our locker room. We didn’t handle their pressure very well, and that was disappointing. We are better than what we showed tonight, and we will have to be better Saturday. But the girls really wanted to come back and play Saturday. They have earned the chance to do that.”
Demarius Wolf led the Wildcats with 23 while Ivy Wolf finished with 17. Tri-Village, which finished 24-2, was led by Maddie Downing’s 17 points, while Lissa Siler added 13.
In the nightcap, Legacy Christian scored the game’s first 5 points, but Fort Loramie scored the next 12 to seemingly take control. The Knights went on a 15-6 run to re-take the lead 20-18, and trailed by just a point at halftime.
Fort Loramie went more than four minutes without a point to start the third quarter, but the Knights only scored 5 for a 27-23 lead. Back to back hoops by Kenzie Hoelscher, including a 3, gave the Redskins the lead for good, and a three from Kennedi Gephart and four free throws by Dana Rose gave the Redskins their 22nd straight win.
“I loved the first quarter, I loved the fourth quarter, and the second and third quarters I don’t want to talk about,” smiled a relieved Loramie head coach Carla Siegel. “Legacy has great players, and it’s the first time they have been here in a long time. I told the girls they would come after us. I didn’t think we passed the ball very well tonight. It’s been an issue all year. We have a day and a half to get better and ready for Minster.”
Siegel was asked about Hoelscher’s second half play.
“I told her she had to step up,” Siegel said of the 6-foot sophomore. “She had a tough first half. She responded well. She had a couple of big shots to get us going and her defense picked up. I am very proud of the way she responded in the second half.
Siegel knows what to expect come Saturday night at 7:30.
“It’s going to be a hard-nosed defensive battle. They play great defense, we play great defense. It will come down to the team that makes the fewest mistakes, and plays with the most confidence, and I hope that’s us.”