In a defensive struggle between two of the state’s top five teams in Division IV, unbeaten and #1 Fort Loramie pushed past #4 New Knoxville in the second half come out the winner, 44-39.
New Knoxville, OH – Senior Riley Heitkamp only scored 7 points, but seven points from anyone for Fort Loramie Tuesday night could arguably have been the difference in a 44-39 Loramie win over the recently 4th-ranked New Knoxville Rangers.
One could also make the case that Heitkamp was the difference in the game had she not scored. New Knoxville is known for their defense, and came out to impose pressure in the manner of Fort Loramie upon the Redskins themselves, and point guard Heitkamp was charged with managing the basketball, distributing it to open teammates, defending, and playing it cool in the face of a mirror image of themselves.
A packed gym turned out to see unbeaten Fort Loramie (17-0), ranked #1, protect that ranking against New Knoxville (15-2), hoping to see history.
Because in 22 previous meetings between the two New Knoxville had never won, and starting five seniors against the defending Division IV champs, this was as good a chance to break that string as coach Tim Hegemier would ever have. The Rangers were prepared, and for thirty two minutes they did what they could do to make the most of it.
Principally, they made Fort Loramie play patient, half-court basketball on offense. And on the other end of the court, they denied Loramie transition basketball by limiting turnovers and not letting the Redskins shoot layups. The Rangers gave themselves a chance, to invoke cliche’, scoring the first four points of the game, but trailed 10-9 at the end of the first quarter.
New Knoxville went ahead 11-10 with the first basket of the second quarter, but would not lead again. Loramie’s Colleen Brandewie would hit consecutive three-pointers midway through the second quarter to push Loramie ahead by five points, and they would ultimately take a 24-20 lead to the halftime locker room.
The crowd was loving it…the prospect of the state’s #1 team being upset. On the other side of the gym, the Loramie fans were hanging on every possession waiting for that customary Redskin surge of defensive pressure, turnovers, and easy baskets that mark nearly every win. It didn’t come. New Knoxville made them work, made them crack on occasion, and gave themselves a chance.
“I told the girls…we could play with them,” said Tim Hegemier afterwards. “I was happy with our defense. The one thing we did do too much of was gamble, and every time we did and didn’t get the ball they scored.”
But for the most part they did take Loramie out of their game…that pressure-causes-turnovers-that-cause-layups-that-beat-you thing, and that gave Hegemier and the Rangers more than enough opportunity to win.
“I’ve been playing Loramie for four or five years and I can tell you that all their buckets are right in there (around the rim). I told the girls…we can’t turn the ball over. If we do it’s a transition bucket. And we had to get back on defense to keep them from scoring. I thought we did a pretty decent job. They got a couple of them, but that’s half their game.
“Their depth helps them because they’ve got eight or nine girls that can play, and they don’t lose a step when they sub. So we’ve got to play with what we’ve got and that’s the way it is.”
Crack on occasion? Unofficially, Loramie turned the ball over 16 times on offense, but returned enough pressure to keep New Knoxville from ever getting into any kind of offensive rhythm. Loramie doubled the basketball, collapsed on the middle when the ball went inside to center Avery Henschen…and their depth prevailed by the time the fourth quarter rolled around.
Heitkamp had 7 points, three assists, and did it in the face of Carsyn Henschen, New Knoxville’s biggest player, who Hegemier put out front to make it tougher for Loramie to get the ball into the paint and the Redskins’ size. Heitkamp navigated it well, controlling pace, controlling her own emotions, and finding enough open shooters cutting to the rim to maintain that four-point lead, 32-28, at the end of the third quarter. Ava Turner and Heitkamp helped with a pair of three-pointers and Brandewie hit a pair of free throws and that was the sum of Loramie’s third quarter points.
Knoxville matched those eight points with six from the Henschens and a bucket from Haley Fledderjohann.
“It was a defensive showdown,” said Loramie’s Carla Siegel. “New Knoxville is a good team, they’re well coached, they’ve got good athletes, and every shot that we took was hard until we got some transition layups there are the end.”
But Loramie’s pressure began to wear on New Knoxville at the outset of the fourth quarter. The Rangers had some empty possessions. Heitkamp stayed in character, stripped the ball away from guard Ellie Gabel, and that momentum allowed for a 6-2 run that suddenly had Loramie up by eight points. New Knoxville fouled, allowing Loramie to shoot one-and-ones, and the lead leaked out to ten points.
“It was definitely a battle,” smiled Siegel. “We wanted to get transition points, but at the same time we wanted to be smart, be patient. I was concerned a bit in the first half because we weren’t getting those transition points. That’s a big part of how we score, but I think the word on the street is if you want to beat Loramie you stop their transition. The last couple of games teams have been taking that away from us. I know that was a key for Tim (Hegemier) tonight, and he said that earlier this week. They did a good job of that. They did stop our transition.
“There were a couple of times we got caught up in the pace of the game and made bad decisions. But by the end I thought we settle down a little bit and took care of the ball, got to the line and made free throws. I saw some growth tonight in our young players and that was a good thing.”
They were up by ten with two minutes left, only to see New Knoxville stage one last rally, score on shots from Gabel and Avery Henschen, and Henschen made a pair of free throws to cut the final deficit to 44-39. The crowd – both sides – had gotten what they came to see. New Knoxville had proven that they could play with the #1 team in the state, and had they made some shots…well, who knows?
Fort Loramie proved that they could win by playing in the half court, without the customary ten easy layups that come from twenty opposition turnovers. As it turned out, they scored half that many against New Knoxville. But their defense allowed them to hold serve, and their depth, as always, turned out to be a difference.
Colleen Brandewie led Loramie in scoring with 10 points, her back-to-back threes in the second quarter were an important point of the game.
“They were huge because Colleen is a phenomenal shooter for us, and a great team leader,” said Siegel. “She hasn’t been making shots, I think she’s been worried about it, and I told her in practice yesterday a shooter’s a shooter. Get over it and you’ll be fine tomorrow night. Tonight was good for her confidence.”
Avery Brandewie had 9, Heitkamp had her 7, Ava Sholtis and Victoria Mescher each had 6, Ava Turner had 5 and Cara Meyer finished with 1 point.
For New Knoxville, Avery Henschen led them with 15, Carsyn Henschen had 12, Ellie Gabel had 7, Haley Fledderjohann had 4, and Rebecca Leffel had 1.
So yes, it proved that New Knoxville could play with anyone. It proved once again that Fort Loramie can withstand a serious challenge, adapt, and still win.
And as the first of February looms it sets up fabulous finish in Division IV basketball with four of the state’s top ten teams – Loramie, Tri-Village, New Knoxville, and Russia – all within sight of each other. And on a given night…capable of beating anyone.
As for history and that 23-game win streak? History will have to wait.