By Gary R. Rasberry
To get to the state basketball tournament for the second time in three seasons, the Marion Local girls will have to battle a group from Franklin-Monroe, which has a lot of the same traits and attributes as it does.
The Jets (18-5), out of Darke County and the Cross County Conference, beat Jackson Center on Saturday, 49-37, to advance to the regional tournament at the Vandalia-Butler Student Activity Center at 6:15 p.m. on Thursday night. It's the first-ever district title for the Jets.
"Anybody who's in the sweet 16 is good," said Marion Local coach Treva Fortkamp, whose squad will take their perfect 23-0 record to Vandalia.
The Jets have just three seniors on the roster -- Marion has four -- and have a solid core of juniors who have done the job this season.
The versatile guard-forward Abbey Davenport leads the team in scoring at 15.1 points per game and in assists with 6.4, matching the assist total that the Flyers get from Maria Moeller. Davenport, a second-team All-Southwest District selection, has also connected on 40.9 percent of her threes this season. "She concerns me if she gets streaky hot," said Fortkamp. "She just doesn't sit on the (three-point) line, she's 4-5 feet behind the line. She has a real quick release."
At the other guard spot, 5-6 junior Courtney Oswalt averages 12.4 ppg. and dishes out 4.2 apg. Oswalt is also the player not to put on the foul line late, connecting on 78.8 percent of her free-throw attempts.
The Jets also have some size to match up with the Flyers, as three of their players stand 6-1. Senior Elaina Kakatolis is the key player in the middle for the Jets, averaging 11.4 ppg. and 11.1 rpg.
"They have Kakatolis and number 42 (6-1 senior Susan Post)," said Fortkamp. "We need to control the boards. They have good size and are pretty athletic. We will have to bring our A-game."
At a forward spot, 5-9 sophomore Amy Spitler has been averaging 7.3 ppg.
The Jets also boast a talented freshman guard in 5-4 Mara Howell. Howell averaged 7.9 ppg. in the regular season but turned it up a notch in the postseason and is averaging 14.3 ppg. in the tournament.
"She runs primarily the point," said Fortkamp. "She doesn't score a lot but does a lot from the point. Also, from the tape and the game I saw, she's the only one who really pressures the ball."
Senior Dana Halderman played in just 14 games in the regular season but has seen time in all the tournament games, with a big game coming against Twin Valley South when she scored 12 points.
The Jets have the ability to put up points, averaging 61.6 ppg. this season and defensively, the team gives up 34.7 ppg.
Fortkamp believes that for the Flyers to be successful, they need to set the tempo.
"What I've talked about all year is to do what we need to do and not let them dictate the game," said Fortkamp. "That's the way I'm going to approach it this week.
"I think we'll need to get the transition game and push the ball up the floor. They'll do that as well, so we'll have to get back (on defense)."
The second game of the double-dip on Thursday will feature another highly-anticipated contest. Fort Loramie, whose only loss in 24 games came to Marion -- takes on a 22-1 Xenia Christian team that has gained notoriety due to the play of the Frazee triplets. The trio of 6-2 siblings -- all of whom will attend Liberty next season -- have been solid for the Lady Ambassadors. Moriah, Megan and Molly can be told apart by only their jersey numbers 42, 43 and 50. Megan is having the best season, earning Southwest District Player of the Year with a 32.7 ppg. effort.
Fort Loramie, whose coach Carla Siegel was named the Coach of the Year in the Southwest District, is led by first-team all-District selection Courtney Reed and third-team selection Mallory Albers.