By Bryant Billing
SIDNEY — Fort Loramie’s girls basketball team has an offense called cutter. The main philosophy isn’t a hard guess — it calls for cuts, or fast movement across the court in an effort draw the defense away from teammates.
The Redskins didn’t do much of that in the first half of a Division IV sectional semifinal on Wednesday. But once they took the knives to Lehman Catholic’s defense in the second half, the Cavaliers could do little but watch the ball fall repeatedly through the net.
Fort Loramie used a big third quarter to spark a 59-33 win, which puts the team in a sectional final against Houston at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday. Houston beat Triad 59-53 in the second semifinal on Wednesday at Sidney.
The Redskins led 22-19 with 2:12 left in the second quarter and pushed their lead to nine points by halftime. They then opened the third quarter with a bunch of baskets off drives and held Lehman scoreless until the final 20 seconds.
When the third quarter buzzer sounded, Fort Loramie (19-5) had a 45-22 lead and complete control of the game.
“I feel like the whole first half our girls were just standing,” Fort Loramie coach Carla Siegel said. “We wouldn’t (cut), we’d pass the ball and just stand. It was so frustrating that first half. I can’t put it to words.
“But we readdressed everything in the locker room, and I thought the girls came out in the second half and were moving far better.”
Six different players combined to score the Redskins’ 16 third quarter points. Lehman was flustered trying to keep up with Fort Loramie in transition, and twice when they did, Taylor Ratermann and Dana Rose hit 3-pointers.
“They’re just so strong with the ball. They’re quick, and they crash the boards so well,” Lehman Catholic coach Craig Hall said. “I told the girls the boards and the free-throw line was going to dictate this game. We did okay at the line, but we got crushed on the boards.”
Marissa Meiring was part of the reason Lehman struggled to get rebounds. Meiring, a 5-foot-9 sophomore forward, was able to fight off Lehman 6-0 forward Carly Edwards in the paint for a game-high 17 points and 11 rebounds.
“Marissa is strong,” Siegel said. “… She also creates havoc on defense. She gets a lot of steals. She always has her hands on the ball and always wants the ball. We’re lucky to have her.”
Ratermann added 12 points for the Redskins while Rose and Kenzi Hoelscher each added eight points. Ratermann is a sophomore, while Hoelscher and Rose are freshman.
The three players along with Meiring are a part of eight underclassmen on the Redskins’ roster. That youth has contributed to some inconsistent play this year according to Siegel, including in the first half on Wednesday.
Siegel said that needs to change as the Redskins advance further in the tournament.
“I thought we had outgrown the inexperience part, but today it showed a lot in that first half,” Siegel said. “Hopefully these next two days, we’ll get to work on our game plan and get some of those things under control. …We’re still growing each and every game, and that’s always a good thing.”
Fort Loramie scored five points in the first minute of the game and led 7-3 with 4:30 left in the first. The Redskins led 14-9 at the end of the quarter, but Lehman closed the gap in the second.
Grace Monnin hit a basket to pull the Cavaliers within 19-15 with 5:08 left in the third, and Edwards closed the gap to three at 22-19 with a basket in the paint with 2:12 left.
“Their entire offense is in the paint,” Siegel said. “It’s penetrate, it’s layups, and it’s free throws. They made one outside shot the whole first half, so we just told our girls we had to buckle down and keep them out of there. I thought they did a better job of getting their behinds down lower got more steals, and we got our transition game going finally.”
Senior guard Alanna O’Leary led Lehman with nine points while Edwards finished with seven. The Cavaliers shot 13 for 41 (32 percent) from the field.
Hall said he was proud of the team’s effort.
“I think the world of these kids,” Hall said. “They didn’t quit. They never gave up. But Loramie’s just a fundamentally strong basketball team and hard to beat.”
O’Leary is one of three seniors the team will lose to graduation. She averaged 10.1 points and 2.8 steals per game for the Cavaliers (11-12).