By Gary R. Rasberry
VANDALIA —It's hard for a winning basketball
coach to call a state-qualifying win an ugly game.
But that's what Nann Stechschulte said after her
Minster Wildcats held off a late codege from Fort Loramie to
take a 41-32 win in the Division IV regional at the Student
Activity Center on Saturday night.
The Wildcats (23-2) will face 25-1 Berlin Hiland on Friday at 3 p.m. at the Schottenstein Center on the campus of The Ohio State University. The Hawks advanced with a 49-26 win over Morral Ridgedale at Pickerington on Saturday.
The Wildcats had a 10-point lead for a good part of the second half until Fort Loramie put on a codege that got the Redskins (22-4) to within two points with two minutes left in the game. Minster rebounded to score key baskets and prevent any more Loramie scores with a 7-0 run to end the game.
Minster won despite shooting just 39 percent (7-of-18) from the foul line. But the woes at the stripe were slightly lessened by another strong night of defense from the Wildcats.
While Fort Loramie had trouble shooting from the field, it was their shooting from the line that kept them in the game. The Redskins were just 7-of-33 from the floor — including just 1-of-12 from the three-point line — but hit 17-of-22 from the stripe.
“I think we played great defense, but we put them on the foul line too much,” said Stechschulte. “We put them on too much and didn’t hit ours. We made that a lot more interesting than it needed to be.
“We didn’t want them to get any good looks. That’s really tough to do. You have to come out and put pressure on the perimeter but watch for the high-low. That’s an important part of the game.”
“We knew it was going to be a defensive struggle,” said Redskins coach Carla Siegel. “We knew they were going to score a lot of points and I was hoping that we would score a few more than we did. We didn’t get the shots to fall. We weren’t shooting well but that’s what happens when you play a defensive team.”
Minster led 27-17 to start the fourth quarter but the Redskins immediately began to cut away at the deficit. Leslie Hoelscher hit a pair of free throws just 12 seconds into the quarter to get things rolling. After Kristen Shenk made one-of-two from the line, Stephanie Drees drove the lane and was fouled, getting the old-school three-point play to get Loramie within six.
The Wildcats looked to respond quickly, getting back-to-back layups from Karen Brackman and Robyn Hoying to put the lead back to 10 at 32-22 but seconds later Hoying picked up her fourth foul and had to sit on the bench. Earlier, point guard Bridget Slonkosky picked up her fourth, keeping two of the key starters on the bench.
“Bridget was on the bench. Robyn was on the bench,” said Stechschulte. “At one time, I had three starters on the bench for about 2 1/2 minutes.”
That was the moment Siegel’s squad was looking for as Hoelscher made her two freebies off the Hoying foul. Amy Kremer, Hoying’s replacement, made a layup to put the Minster lead back to 10 but Loramie made a run.
Mallory Albers made good on a three-point play with 3:08 to go to cut the Minster lead to seven and seconds later Albers got the ball back and was fouled, making both free throws to make it 34-29.
Stechschulte was then forced to insert Hoying and Slonkosky back into the lineup in hopes of stopping the Fort Loramie momentum.
Minster tried to slow things down and force Loramie to foul, finally getting Slonkosky tied up with 2:36 left. Slonkosky missed the front end of the bonus and Loramie rebounded leading to Drees hitting a trey from the corner to get the Redskins to within two at 34-32 with 2:14 left in the game.
The Wildcats broke the press and started to slow things down again. Slonkosky got the give-and-go pass from the top of the key and laid it in to give Minster a four-point cushion. Albers tried a trey to cut it to one but missed and Brackman got the rebound and went coast-to-coast for a layup with 1:06 left to push the score to 38-32.
Loramie traveled on its next possession to give the Wildcats a chance to run things out but Kirby Boeke was fouled on the move down court. Boeke missed her free throw and Drees rebounded and then proceeded to lose the ball out of bounds. Slonkosky was then fouled and made one of two from the free-throw line to make it 39-32.
The Redskins looked to get the ball inside and Ernst tried for the shot but was blocked by Hoying, setting up a jump ball for Loramie. The Redskins turned the ball over again and had to foul Brackman, who made both free throws to ice the game.
Boeke stole the inbounds and Stechschulte cleared the bench to begin the celebration.
“We had some unforced turnovers and didn’t make good decisions,” said Siegel. “We came down on offense and needed to get a shot off. I had a lot of sophomores on the floor (starting three and coming off the bench with two more). Minster is a senior-dominated team and it showed tonight.”
Defensively, both teams contained each others top scorers. Minster held double-digit scorer Ernst to just two free throws and Courtney Reed — a 9.2 ppg. scorer — to two points. Albers was the only one who could get any offense going for the Redskins, scoring 11 points thanks to a 7-of-9 night from the foul line.
Loramie responded by keeping close watch on Hoying, who had double-doubles her last two games. Hoying was only able to take six shots, making three, on the night and finished with six points and 10 rebounds.
“Leslie did a fantastic job on Hoying,” said Siegel. “You have to give Robyn credit, she did a great job on the boards and kept Leslie off the boards (Hoelscher finished with four rebounds).”
Brackman came up with the big game, scoring 14 points on 6-of-8 shooting. Slonkosky and Sunni Olding each came up with seven.
Now the Wildcats are heading back to Columbus for the state tournament. The last time Stechschulte roamed the sidelines at state, the Wildcats won the Division IV title.
“You can almost taste it, but you’re still not there,” said Stechschulte, referring to her thoughts in the late part of the game. “It’s very difficult to do, to get to state. In the coaches’ poll, eight of the top 15 teams were in the Southwest District and in the AP poll, six of the top 11 were here. I feel fortunate to survive. There were a lot of great teams we had to go through to get here.”