Cedarville had perennial state power Fort Loramie on its heels during the first half of the Division IV district championship game.
But in the second half it was Fort Loramie’s turn.
Cedarville, which led by as many as seven in the first half, struggled in the second before falling 57-45 at Troy High School on Saturday. The loss was the Indians’ third straight in the district title game.
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“Coming out in the third quarter, honestly, has been an Achilles heel for us for 25 games. Why not do the same this game?” Cedarville coach Josh Mason said. “At the end of the day, Fort Loramie made the plays they needed to. It’s just a very disciplined ball club.”
Fort Loramie, which has won district titles 10 of the past 11 seasons, used a pair of quick 3-pointers to regain the lead with 6:40 left in the third and never trailed again. The Redskins outscored the Indians 18-8 in the quarter, giving them just enough room to run clock with a patient offense.
Cedarville (20-6) got as close as 38-33 in the fourth quarter on junior Maggie Coe’s 3-pointer to open the fourth. But Fort Loramie freshman Kenzie Hoelscher answered with the game’s next six points inside, including a sprint down a wide-open lane to make it 44-33 with 4:48 remaining. The lead never dipped below double digits again.
In the end Fort Loramie’s tradition – and bench – won out. The Redskins’ reserves outscored the Indians’ bench 18-0. The Redskins (21-5) also outrebounded the Indians 33-21.
“They did what district final teams have to do. They executed at the end of the game,” Mason said. “We pressed them, they beat it. We fouled them and they made free throws. If you want to win district and go on you have to do what they did. They’re Shelby County League champs for a reason.”
Cedarville senior Ise Bolender finished her career with 14 points. She leaves the program just shy of 1,900 career points.
“No one put in as much effort as she did this game,” Mason said. “I can’t put into words what that girl has done for our program. Without her this wouldn’t be possible. It’s going to take a moment to realize she’s walking out the door now.
“The biggest thing we’re going to miss about her is her leadership. We’re devastated right now but we’ve got a leader (in the locker room) that is making sure everyone knows she wouldn’t trade this for the world.”
Coe led the Indians with 17 points and added four assists and three steals. Junior Kaylee Cyphers had a nine of her team’s 21 rebounds.
Cedarville’s perimeter-oriented offense struggled against Fort Loramie. The team shot 16-of-44 (36 percent) overall and 4-of-19 (21 percent) from 3-point range. Fort Loramie finished 20-of-43 (46 percent) overall.
Fort Loramie closed out the game hitting 7-of-8 free throws in the final 1:19. The Redskins shot 15-of-19 (78 percent) from the line overall.
“We went in at halftime and I told the girls if you fix two things we’re going to be okay – better passes and rebound better,” Fort Loramie coach Carla Siegel said. “Once we took are of those two issues we were a different team.”
Fort Loramie found extra motivation in last season’s sectional tournament loss. It was the first time since 2007 that the program failed to reach the regional tournament, including five trips to state with two titles.
“What a great team. Coe and Bolender are two great players. We’re ecstatic we beat them,” Siegel said. “We knew it was going to be a fight today and it was. (Cedarville) was busting their butts all over the court getting their hands on passes and out-rebounding us.”
The third straight runner-up finish hurts, but Mason wants to use it to continue building Cedarville’s tradition. He pointed over to the other team’s locker room as an example of what the Indians can become.
“(Fort Loramie has) the history to back it up. They’re a great team,” Mason said. “That is possible for us. There are things we can do to make that a possibility. At the end of the day we at least showed we can play with them. We showed that little Cedarville from the Ohio Heritage Conference can battle with the perennial powerhouse of Fort Loramie. I told the girls I hope they hold their heads high with that.”