The Russia Raiders trailed for most of the second half at Fort Loramie Friday night, but, as they almost always seem to do, the Raiders made the necessary plays to pull out a very satisfying victory.
Fort Loramie – There was no Shelby County League title on the line, but that didn’t mean the Fort Loramie Redskins and the Russia Raiders didn’t have any motivation for their late season showdown at Fort Loramie High School.
The Raiders had clinched their fourth straight SCL title last week when they beat Fairlawn and Fort Loramie lost to Jackson Center. Both teams, however, were looking for late season momentum to carry into the sectional tournament which begins next weekend.
Russia was looking to extend a 7-game regular season winning streak over the Redskins, who were looking to avenge a 55-43 loss at Russia in early January, the Redskins first loss after starting 8-0.
And come on—It’s Russia and Fort Loramie. That alone is usually enough to get both teams fired up.
Fort Loramie led for most of the second half, but the Raiders made plays when they had to late in the fourth quarter to pull out a 46-45 win on the Redskins home floor. Make it 8 straight regular season wins in the series for the Raiders.
Sophomore Daniel Kearns scored off the left baseline with 3.3 seconds remaining, and the Raiders survived a last second Loramie bid for victory to improve to 16-4 with a season finale at home tomorrow night against Marion Local. Loramie slips to 16-5 and will finish the season at home tomorrow night against Tri-Village.
“We got down in the fourth quarter, and nobody panicked,” said Raiders head coach Spencer Cordonnier. “We got some stops, and we executed offensively. They just know how to win.”
“One too many mistakes,” said a somber Loramie head coach Corey Britton. “Every time we made a mistake, Russia took advantage of it. That’s the difference between us and the Shelby County League Champs; they didn’t make mistakes and we did.”
The Raiders started fast, jumping to a quick 7-0 lead and prompting a quick Loramie timeout. The Redskins recovered quickly, and the game was tied for the first of five times at 10 after the first period.
“We weren’t competing at the start,” Britton said, explaining the quick timeout. “I didn’t think we were playing very hard. We had a couple of shots that didn’t go in and our attention to detail wasn’t very good at the start. But credit our kids. We came back with a run to take the lead. Our kids battled hard.”
Fort Loramie had a 7 point run of its own to open a 17-12 lead but the Raiders battled back this time, and the Loramie lead was just 20-19 at the break.
The game stayed close throughout the second half. Kearns’ three-point play tied it at 32 early in the fourth, but Loramie got a three from Evan Berning and led 41-38 with less than two minutes to play.
“We’re up three and then had back to back turnovers,” lamented Britton. “We couldn’t get offensive rebounds, we lost shooters, they deserved to win. They made more plays than we did.”
A Drew Sherman hoop and a pair of Cole Tebbe free throws gave Russia a 42-41 lead and set up a frantic finish that saw the lead change hands five times in the final 82 seconds.
Loramie’s 6-7 junior Tyler Siegel, who scored a game high 12 points, dropped one in at the 1:08 mark. Redskins 43-42.
Tebbe got his only field goal of the second half 25 seconds later, to give the Raiders a 44-43 lead with 43 seconds to play.
Siegel again, this time rebounding a Berning miss, brought the home crowd to their feet when he scored with 18 seconds to play.
Kearns, who scored all nine of his points in the second half, had the final say, giving the Raiders a 46-45 lead with 3.3 seconds to play. The wild Russia celebration almost turned to disbelief, but Berning’s attempt at a game-winning three bounced off the iron as the horn sounded.
“I had a feeling they might change their defense there at the end so we had two plays called,” Cordonnier explained. “When we noticed it was zone, we knew what to do. We ran our play, we executed and we got a basket. Our guys have been in a lot of close games the last two years.
“We talked about that in the huddle tonight. Do the things on defense that will keep you in the game. Give yourselves a chance in the fourth quarter. They did, and we executed and made the shot.”
Siegel led the Redskins with 12 points, while Dillon Braun had 10 and Berning added 9, all in the second half.
The Raiders had no one in double figures, but Kearns had 9, Tebbe and Dylan Cordonnier had 8, Jack Dapore added 7 and Ethan Monnier finished with 6.
“Ethan didn’t even play last Friday,” Cordonnier said with a smile. “He comes in tonight and hits two threes in the first half and gets a couple of big steals. It’s like we said before. It’s someone different every night. He came in when he was called and did his job.”
Russia shot 47% from the floor, 27% from the arc and 71% from the line. Loramie also shot 47% from the field, but just 20% from the arc and 67% fr5om the line.
Russia won the rebounding battle 18-15, but had 15 turnovers to the Redskins 12.
“I don’t think this is a back-breaking loss,” said Britton, in his third year at the helm at Fort Loramie. “I mean, we were 10-12 going into the tournament last year and were able to make some things happen. We can learn some things, and we have to figure out how to finish. But we are alright. Anytime you can play a tough opponent like Russia down to the wire it gives you some confidence.”
The Redskins open tournament play on Saturday the 25th against Riverside, and Britton said his team is getting to where they need to be.
“Yes, slowly. You are going to have close games in the tournament and we can’t falter down the stretch like we did tonight. Our main players have to step up and be men in those situations and they didn’t do that tonight. We have to be tougher. We had three and five point leads all night and weren’t tough enough to get stops. We have to find that toughness.”
There is a very good chance that the Redskins and Raiders will meet for a third time in two weeks with a sectional title on the line, but Cordonnier said the Raiders aren’t thinking about tournament just yet.
“We have one more game left. We have to come in early tomorrow and get ready for Marion. We haven’t looked at them at all because tonight was the most important one. So we will get ready for them, and then Monday we will starting preparing for tournament. You never know what will happen. Everyone starts over. You throw the ball up and see what happens.”