Russia used its defense and Loramie’s inexperience to do what no Russia team in memory had been able to do.
Fort Loramie – Ok, for the record an observer told me before Thursday’s Russia-Loramie girls game that it had been 50 years since the Raiders had beaten Loramie twice in the regular season.
I checked, and there are no records to substantiate that, however it is on record that going into this season the Loramie girls had beaten the Russia girls 19 times consecutively – and 37 of their last 42 meetings.
And frankly, no one court-side Thursday knew any more, or any less.
“I know it’s been a coon’s age,” said someone at the scorer’s table. But no word on just how long that is.
So suffice it to say, the Raiders’ 45-30 win Thursday was a big, big deal. That in the words of senior guard Maria Herron, who finished the game with just eleven points, but put on a dazzling display of long-range three-point shooting when her team needed it most.
“I don’t know how long it’s been since we’ve won twice,” she said. “But I know I’ve played against them for four years and every year we’ve gotten blown out. This is huge!”
Well, that streak is now broken. Winners in their first meeting back on January 7 (50-27), the Raiders used its defense and some Loramie inexperience Thursday to cash in their quinella ticket, featuring just enough offense of their own (15 of 29 from the field, 52%) to keep Loramie at bay.
Loramie, coming off a 56-33 win this week against Sidney, might have had a self-fulfilling prophecy.
“We know they’re going to play defense,” said Loramie’s Carla Siegel of Russia prior to the game. “Sidney didn’t.”
And defense, as is often the case in Shelby County League games, was the name of the game.
Russia led 10-7 at the end of one; 20-16 at the half, having limited Loramie to just 5 of 14 shooting (35%).
The issue? Coach Andy Timmerman’s persistent pressure kept causing Loramie to turn the ball over – 13 times in those first sixteen minutes, and 13 empty possessions where in some cases the Redskins simply threw the ball out of bounds. No continuity, no flow, no points.
For their part, all Loramie’s young lineup could do to stay in the game WAS defend, and likewise, they forced 12 turnovers from the Raiders, who seemed to have a bad possession for every good one.
Points came hard for both teams. Tiffany Hatcher hit an early three to give the Raiders a five-point lead, but Loramie’s Reyan Frey hit one midway through the second quarter to keep it close leading up to the final 30 seconds of the first half.
Enter Maria Herron, who standing with the ball at the top of the key, about four steps behind the three-point arc, let fly over an unsuspecting Hattie Meyer. Her shot touched nothing but net, good from NBA range, and it was an omen of things to come.
The Raiders came out hot in the third quarter, not getting a lot of shots, but making the most of what came from their half-court offense. Which was a good thing, because every time they got into fast break mode they, too, kicked the ball out of bounds. They took eight shots – they hit six of them – punctuated by a pair of ‘threes’ from Herron; and just like before, a bomb to end the quarter from at least 25 feet!
Loramie tried to keep pace, hitting four of nine from the field, but the turnover bug kept biting them – six in the quarter – as Russia pulled out to a 36-24 lead.
They continued to build on the lead in the final quarter, leading by as much as twenty at one point before a three-pointer by Loramie’s Chloe Stang and a pair of free throws from freshman Taylor Ratermann cut the final deficit to 45-30.
For Carla Siegel and Loramie (14-7, 8-4 in league), it was a study in abject frustration.
“I thought our defense played pretty well because we held them to 20 points in the first half, and Maria Herron is a fabulous offensive player,” she said, shaking her head.
“But it’s hard to play the way you want to play when you can’t score, and we’ve struggled to score. It’s hard when you turn the ball over that many times.”
Loramie finished the game with 23 give-aways.
“And a lot of the turnovers were just silly,” fumed Siegel. “You need to rely on your seniors at this point of the year and we didn’t have that tonight. A freshman was our leading scorer.”
Pausing for a moment, perhaps for impact, she concluded: “There simply are no words to describe the frustration.”
Down the hallway the Russia locker room exploded with screams of excitement, accomplishment, and the music was blasting at mega-decibels.
“They’re pretty excited,” smiled Timmerman, obviously enjoying his first year as coach. His girls can’t win the league (Jackson Center has that), but 17-5 (9-3 in the league) ain’t bad. And 2-0 over Loramie is glorious!
“This was a total team effort. Our defense was good. We handled their shooters. We took the transition game away and we forced the turnovers.”
But in the next breath he sobered. “But we have to do a better job of taking care of the basketball ourselves.”
The Raiders themselves finished the game in excess of twenty turnovers.
“But I can’t fault the effort,” he added. “They played with a lot of heart.”
Maria Herron led the effort with 11 points, 3 of 5 from three-point range (60%). Fellow guard Whitney Pleiman had 9, and Cameo Wilson added 8.
Loramie was led by freshman Taylor Ratermann’s 10 points, an accomplishment not unappreciated on a night when the ‘Skins shot just 33% from the field (11 of 34).
Two wins over Loramie in the same season for Maria Herron is not only historic, but considering her age, it’s, well, pre-historic.
“We’ve got to get ready for Lehman now,” she said, calming herself. “We’re looking forward to the tournament, but one game at a time.
“But this was huge for us,” she allowed herself to beam, about to bust at the seams.
And for this particular Russia team, it deserved a better cliche’ than just “huge”.
It was…once in their lifetime.