Late in the second quarter of last Saturday's Division III regional girls' basketball final in Logan, Fort Frye struggled a little bit against Johnstown-Monroe's fullcourt press.
And, as a result, the Lady Cadets' onetime 13-point advantage was whittled down to four points (30-26) at halftime.
"We lost our composure a little bit, something these girls don't normally do," said veteran Fort Frye head basketball coach Dan Liedtke after the Lady Cadets defeated the Johnnies, 58-43. "Then, we were taking shots that we shouldn't have been taking."
Photo courtesy of Pam Brooker
Fort Frye’s Deidra Combs, right, battles Johnstown’s Makenzie Spang, left, for the ball during regional final action at Logan Saturday. Morgan Liedtke (24) is in the background.
Like the good team that it is, the Fort made some adjustments at the intermission, and in the second half, Johnstown's press wasn't nearly as bothersome or effective.
"We knew we could win if we did our thing," said FFHS senior standout Taylor Buchanan, who is Palm Beach (Fla.) Atlantic University-bound after graduation in the spring.
Fort's thing was basically keeping its cool when the Johnnies pressed, continuing to attack the basket, and playing aggressive defense.
With the win against Johnstown, the Fort Frye girls (25-3) advance for the first time to the Final 4, and are scheduled to play defending state champion Africentric (21-6) in a semifinal at Value City Arena in Columbus at 1 p.m. Thursday.
Again, as always, it's all about preparation - and make no mistake about it, Fort Frye is expecting to be ready when it steps on the Value City Arena hardwood.
Having played and lost to the Will McKinney-coached Nubians in last year's regional tournament at the Convo in Athens, the Lady Cadets know a little bit about them.
"They're (Africentric) a different kind of team to play," Liedtke said. "They really are. We've just got to learn their style, and find a way to compete with them."
Like Johnstown, Africentric has a little height advantage in the paint in 6-foot-2 Cincinnati recruit Marley Hill, who can not only score and rebound, but also block shots. She had six swats in her team's 60-42 regional final triumph over previously undefeated Archbold (25-1).
Still, the Fort matches up well against the Nubians in the frontcourt with four girls - Micayla Hupp, Deidra Combs, Megan Liedtke, and Buchanan all in the 5-10 range. Plus, 5-7 Shawntell Parsons, 5-7 Morgan Liedtke, and 5-6 Brooke Borich all play good help defense.
When Hall gets the ball in the lane, she's likely to be surrounded by Lady Cadets.
Hall, of course, is not Africentric's only offensive weapon. Ayrielle Stith, a 5-7 forward, also gets a lot of her points inside. Against Archbold, she had 12 markers, six caroms, and three steals.
Like it was against Johnstown, the paint will probably be no place for the meek at state. Whistles could be few and far between.
"We do a lot of things in practice that are physical," Dan Liedtke said. "So they get used to it."
The Fort Frye boss paused.
"I think that's why we go to the places we do in the summertime," Liedtke continued. "We spent a lot of times in some pretty rough camps and shootouts. And that's why we do that, because when you get to this level, it is physical."
Perhaps surprisingly, the Lady Cadets don't spend a whole lot of time in the weight room.
"No, actually we really don't," Liedtke said. "That's something I do want to get into the program, though.
"We do some (lifting) in the fall, but when basketball starts, we don't do much."
While Johnstown's guard play proved to be suspect for the most part, Africentric's is not. The ballhawking Nubians are a run-and-jump kind of team that is capable of wearing teams out with a pressing defense. Against Archbold, they forced 21 turnovers.
Liedtke and his Lady Cadets are very mindful of all of this, and with three days of practices this week...well, let's just say, they're planning to be battle-ready - and to do their thing on Thursday.
Ron Johnston is the Marietta Times sports editor, and can be reached at 376-5441 or at firstname.lastname@example.org