VANDALIA — Anytime a team goes up against a No. 1-ranked team, it’s a challenge. On Thursday night, in a March 7 Division IV regional semifinal battle with the No. 1 Fort Loramie Redskins, Legacy Christian Academy showed that they’re ready to be considered among the state’s elite teams soon.
The underdog Knights (25-3) stayed within range of pulling the upset for much of the contest, but Fort Loramie (25-1) outscored LCA 10-6 in the game’s final 96 seconds to seal the win, 47-39, at Butler High School’s Student Activity Center.
Legacy Christian held a 27-23 lead with 5:38 left to play in the third quarter, but the Redskins got within one point when Kenzie Hoelscher drained a 3-pointer from the right wing. After a Hoelscher steal, the sophomore center scored on a jumper from the left baseline to give Fort Loramie the lead for good, 28-27 with two minutes to go in the third.
Kathleen Ahner refused to let her Knights team go away quietly, however. The 5-foot-8 sophomore guard hit a 3-pointer from the left wing with 6:32 left to play to pull Legacy within two points (30-32), then got the Knights within one with a free throw conversion with 6:14 left to play. Hoelscher responded with a score the other way on the Redskins’ next possession, and LCA never got any closer.
Ahner scored a game-high 19 points for Legacy Christian, while fellow sophomores Katie Leach and Emma Hess finished with nine and six points respectively. Maddy Combs added three points and Danielle Matthews scored two.
Hoelscher and fellow sophomore Dana Rose led Fort Loramie with nine points apiece, while Kennedi Gephart and Taylor Ratermann each finished with eight.
Fort Loramie coach Carla Siegel said she knew her team was in for a battle for Legacy Christian. She was worried about her team not being totally focused, and she may have been right.
“All we talked about all week was Legacy, but these are 14- and 15-year-old girls, so I’m not sure where they were,” she said. “I was focused on this game, because I knew it was going to be a big one. Hopefully, we can put this behind us and get ready for Minster, starting tomorrow.”
LCA coach Mark Combs gathered both teams at center court after the game and formed a prayer circle. He prayed for Fort Loramie’s continued success during the brief session. After speaking with the team, and thanking seniors Matthews and Emily Riddle for four amazing years, Combs was able to reflect on his team’s effort.
“I couldn’t be more proud of the way that they played,” Combs said. “The best thing about this team is that it’s miles behind how proud I am of the people they are. We’ve got a great group of kids. They’re high-character kids. … Certainly tonight, I couldn’t be more proud of them. We gave Fort Loramie a good shot tonight.”
The No. 1 Redskins will next take on the state’s No. 2-ranked Minster, who defeated No. 3-ranked New Madison Tri-Village, 60-50, Thursday night in the opening game at Butler High School.
Siegel came away impressed with the Knights’ effort. The gameplan was to shut down LCA’s scoring leader, Emma Hess (15.9 points per game).
“They’re awesome. Coach Combs does a great job,” Siegel said. “We had a hard time containing Ahner tonight. She was lights out. Normally it’s Hess that shoots the lights out, so I thought we did a good job keeping her from scoring … They have a nice team. I’m not taking anything away from them. They battled hard and they played us well for 32 minutes. They gave us quite a contest. He should be very proud of his team.”
The Fort Loramie-Minster battle between the state’s top two Division IV programs for the regional title will take place at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 9 at Butler High School.
Contact John Bombatch at 937-372-4444, Ext. 2123.