Loramie played its signature style of basektball – pressure, turnovers, and points in transition – to push back a stubborn Russia effort, and move to its 19th win.
Russia, OH – Nobody expected it to be a thing of beauty.
Despite being in the throes of an up-and-down season, Russia had won five of its last six games (12-10, 8-4 in SCL), but had stumbled badly against Fort Loramie a month ago, by 38 points, against that pace of chaotic defensive basketball.
Loramie forced its will – pressure defense and points in transition – to a 32-26 halftime lead, then blew away in the second half to an eventual 60-37 win, its 19th of the year, their 12th in SCL league play (12-0). And on Russia’s Senior Night, Loramie’s seniors improved their league record to 47-1 over their four years.
That’s how dominant Loramie has been. It’s what they strive for. And even on those years when they’re just a player away from being their absolute best, their style of play and their commitment to success keeps them at the top of the weekly polls – this week 38 points ahead of Division IV #2, Berlin Hiland.
But they were far from being their best at the start on Thursday, turning the ball as many times as they caused Russia to give it up…and with that maddening habit of missing point-blank shots at the rim.
They led by by 6 (14-8) at the end of the first quarter, then extended that lead to twelve points at the 2:00 mark of the second quarter before Russia took advantage of a quick spurt and a three-pointer by Celeste Borchers to cut Loramie’s halftime advantage in half, 32-26.
Russia trailed by 6, but considering they turned the ball over twelve times – that Loramie kept beating them down the floor to score on easy buckets – it could have been so much worse.
And playing without a pair of injured starters – Carley Scott and Jaela Shappie – didn’t help either, as Loramie pressured and doubled the basketball at every opportunity, and youngsters like Callie Goubeaux and Faith York to learn on the fly…you don’t allow yourself to get trapped on the sideline.
“We love our defense because our offense feeds off those turnovers,” said a smiling Siegel, afterwards.
And the best was yet to come.
Junior Avery Brandewie had been threatening a breakout night for the last month, and she finally had it Thursday, collecting 24 points amidst the footrace to the bucket after the mounting Russia miscues. She scored 12 in the first half, 12 in the second half, enjoyed a pair of three-pointers, and peaked with her best overall game of the season.
The points in transition kept coming. Loramie’s pressure on the ball was relentless. The game was ragged. The officiating was erratic. It was a game with no particular flow, benefiting Loramie as the Redskins built their 6-point halftime advantage to 15 (46-31) by the end of the third quarter.
And still, Russia found itself down twelve points at one point of the fourth quarter, and with a chance to chip its way closer. Except…for the turnovers.
Siegel tightened the noose, despite a couple of perimeters bombs by the Raiders Laci Phlipot and Addison Shappie. As a token of good will, or sportsmanship, Carley Scott entered the game long enough to score on an uncontested layup in her final home game at Claire Naveau Gym. But that was the sum of their scoring in the final eight minutes – just 6 points.
The turnover total rose to 28. The points-off-turnovers rose to a startling total of 34. And Loramie closed things out, 60-37.
Brandewie’s 24 points led all scorers, while Summer Hoying added 10 and Victoria Mescher added 9 points.
For Russia, Celeste Borchers led them with 10 points, Roni Poling had 8, and freshman Hazel Francis had 7.
It did not look like a #1-ranked performance, but owing to their style of play, and the constant pressure and turnovers, it suited Siegel just fine.
“I loved what I saw tonight,” she said. “Our defense, the points in transitions, the bunny shots that we got because of our defense…and we could have hit more of those.
“I’ve been telling people for a month that Avery Brandewie was due to have a night like tonight, and tonight was her best game in three years. And it came against Roni Poling, who’s a really good player. That meant a lot to our team.”
Loramie, again, is in a familiar position, 19-2 with a game remaining with Marion Local, another #1 tournament seed, and that constant grind to add one more trip to the Final Four in search of their fourth Division IV title.
Are they as good as the 2021 team?
Are they as good as the 2020 team, that was undefeated and shut out of the Final Four because of Covid?
Are they a play, or a player short, with respect to the inevitable challenge to come from a Tri-Village or Berlin Hiland?
Or does it matter…given that proven style that’s delivered a 47-1 Shelby County League mark in the past four years, and an 82-2 league record with seven straight SCL titles over the past seven seasons?
“I like where we are,” said Siegel Thursday, without as much as a pause.
And really…why pause at all?