Sonny Fulks
Sonny Fulks
Managing Editor

Sonny Fulks is a graduate of Ohio State University where he pitched four varsity seasons for the Buckeyes from 1971 through 1974. He furthered his baseball experience as a minor league umpire for seven seasons, working for the Florida State League (A), the Southern League (AA), and the American Association (AAA). He has written for numerous websites, and for the past fourteen years has served as columnist and photo editor for The Gettysburg Magazine, published by the University of Nebraska Press, in Lincoln Nebraska. His interests include history, support for amateur baseball, the outdoors, and he has a music degree from Ohio State University.

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Anna, on the strength of a second half comeback, won its third consecutive Shelby County League girls title over Ft. Loramie.  But it wasn’t easy…and it wasn’t pretty!

Anna – All that was missing was the brass knuckles.  That’s how rough and out-of-character the game was.

What’s the old Rodney Dangerfield line?  “I went to a boxing match and a hockey game broke out!”

Such was Thursday’s Shelby County League showdown between Anna and Ft. Loramie for the outright  title in girls basketball.  Anna (16-4) was looking for its third consecutive league title.  Ft. Loramie (18-2) was looking for something more than a third consecutive second place finish.

In fact, it had all the atmosphere of a championship fight…Ali-Frazier, Duran vs. Hearns.  Anna’s tiny gym was packed to the top row on both sides.  Those who couldn’t find a seat stood in the hallways outside the doors and peaked in for a view of the action.  Boys basketball on most nights this winter should have been so lucky, such was the interest with a league title on the line.

The first half was legitimate basketball.  On the strength of Ft. Loramie’s Darian Rose and her 10 first half points the Redskins led by as much as 14 points at one point, by four at the half.

The second half was something different…something resembling WWE wrestling.  It was so rough, so physical, so out of character with the game of basketball, Vince McMahon would have smiled.  “Rowdy” Roddy would have love it!

Literally, for the fact of the game there’s little to be said about the execution of either team in the second half.  Loramie, which shot 43% for the first half, could manage just 30% for the second.  Anna, which struggled mightily in the first half to shoot 27%, did little better, finishing at 26% for the game.

But defensively, Jack Billing’s girls came out intent on making someone besides Loramie sharpshooter Darian Rose beat them after the break.

“We went box-and-one on her for the second half,”  said Billing afterwards.  “Our girls aren’t accustomed to losing, especially at home.  I don’t know…they just found a way to win.”

Your game winner…A back door cut to the basket by Natalie Billing gave the Rockets their first lead and the win with nine seconds left in the game.

With four minutes remaining in the game, Loramie’s Paige Ordean hit a jumper from the paint to give the Redskins what seemed to be a manageable, if not comfortable, 42-35 lead.  Little did anyone know then that they would not score again.

Anna’s defense and physical play got inside the heads of the Loramie girls.  Contact at both ends went uncalled.  Bodies flew.  Girls on both teams seemed to anticipate getting whacked before there was even contact.  Points became precious…few.

A huge three point shot by Anna’s Avery Bensman from the top of the key brought the Rockets to within a point, 42-41, with a minute to play.  On the ensuing possession Loramie turned it over, struggling to manage the ball and the lead against the Rockets’ pressure, one of 13 for the half, and 19 for the game.

Calling a timeout, Billing and the Rockets set up a patent play, a backdoor cut to the basket for senior Natalie Billing (the coach’s daughter) which worked to perfection for an easy layup, giving the Rockets the lead with 9.8 seconds remaining in the game.

“Everyone in the gym knew that Natalie was going to get the ball and take the shot in that situation,”  smiled Loramie coach Carla Siegel afterwards.  “We just got caught flat-footed.”

With nine seconds remaining Siegel called a timeout to set up what would be an answering scoring opportunity.  The ball in play, Darian Rose got to the foul line, got to the lane, and from her offhand side had a left-handed layup opportunity of her own.

She missed.  The ball appearing to fall off her hand as she elevated towards the hoop…and Anna had its third title in a row, its third triumph in a row over rival Loramie.

“Give a lot of credit to these girls,”  smiled Billing later, still winded from the stress of the moment.  “They were undefeated as junior high kids and have now won something like 39 in a row in the league.  My seniors just know how to win.  We’ve run that play at the end so many times before.  I told Erica we were going to set the screen for her and get her a backdoor shot and we ran it to perfection.  That’s a bread and butter play for us.  It’s the only lead we had in the game and if you’re going to get one that when you want to have it.

“Our defense won it for us in the second half.  We shut down Rose and wanted to make her shoot it from 15 to 18 feet.  We didn’t think she could hurt us from that range, but if you let her get inside she can kill you.  At point-blank range she can beat you all by herself.  The game was rough physically, but that was good for us tonight.  It was tournament atmosphere and the rough play helps get us ready for that.”

But wait a minute.  For the second week in a row…a girls basketball game that at the end bore little or no resemblance to basketball at all.  So rough, so physical, that execution of the offense became virtually impossible.

“I was surprised to look at the book and see we only scored two points in the fourth quarter,”  said Siegel.  “As physical as it was…we only went to the foul line one time in the second half?  There was contact all over the place.  How many fouls could they have called?  And our girls fouled, I won’t deny that.  But everything changed at the half.  I thought they called it tight in the first half.  But in the second half it was no holds barred.  There was nothing called, either way.

All Out…Bodies flew as Loramie’s Meg Westerheide fights Anna’s Erica Huber for a loose ball in the closing seconds of the game.

“We teach aggressive defense, but we don’t teach physical play, the likes of what this game became in the second half.  It became a football game, and we can’t play that way.”

Whatever you call it, football or basketball, it was not a sterling moment for the fact of two teams capable of playing at a much higher level.  Loramie, with Darian Rose finishing with her 15 points, shot 39% from the field.

Anna, with Natalie Billing leading with her 12 points, managed just 26% from the field for the game.

“They’re going to make a deep run in the tournament,’  said Jack Billing of his arch rival.  “They got a good draw and they’re a very formidable team.

“We have a little tougher way to go.  But at 17-4 I feel very good about this team.  If we have the schedule we had last year we might be undefeated at this point.”

That said, Jack Billing and the Rockets left with the “prize”… again.

Carla Siegel and the Redskins were left to fume.  Pride means a lot in the Shelby County League.

“Hopefully, we can get through the sectional and make a good run,”  said Siegel with an appreciative smile.  “How many times can you finish second?”

Good point.  But regardless of who won Thursday…no one in their respective divisions was about to feel sorry for Loramie and Anna, regardless of the outcome.

Call it respect.

Call it success!

Note:  For additional images of the Anna-Loramie game, click on the Online Store icon on the front page in the feature photo box.  You’ll be directed to the photo file of the game.

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