BEVERLY - Coaching a girls basketball team to the final four in the state of Ohio is a special accomplishment for any high school basketball coach.
Add to that a pair of daughters who play key roles on the team and that accomplishment becomes extra special.
Such is the case for Fort Frye head coach Dan Liedtke as he prepares to lead daughters Morgan and Megan and the rest of the Lady Cadets into Thursday afternoon's Divison III final four match up against (21-5) Africentric Early College at the Schottenstein Center in Columbus.
Photo courtesy of Pam Brooker
Fort Frye’s Morgan Liedtke (24) tries to move the ball while Johnstown’s Marissa Sheets (left) defends. Morgan Liedtke, a senior, is the daughter of Fort Frye head coach Dan Liedtke and the older sister of sophomore Megan Liedtke.
"It's just really special, it really is," said Dan Liedtke, of the (25-3) Lady Cadets' first ever appearance in the state final four. "My girls pretty much grew up around the basketball floor with me coaching the boys and all. They were just pretty much raised around basketball."
Liedtke graduated high school from New Philadelphia in 1978, where he ran track and still holds several basketball records, before moving on to play college ball.
After transferring to Rio Grande University from Kent State University (Tuscarawas Campus), Liedtke was involved in an automobile wreck that proved to prematurely put an end to his playing career and to put into motion an incredibly successful coaching career that has netted more than 500 career coaching wins.
"I injured my back in the wreck and I knew my playing career was over," said Liedtke of the accident that occurred in Marietta. "My coach, John Lawhorn, kind of took me in and felt that I had what it took to be a coach. He proved to be kind of a mentor to me."
Liedtke changed his major from business to education and thus began one of the most successful coaching careers in the Mid Ohio Valley.
Liedtke and his wife Loretta will celebrate 25 years of marriage later this year and in addition to Morgan and Megan, are also the parents of Makayla, who is currently in the eighth grade at Fort Frye.
Most of Liedtke's coaching career was spent guiding the Cadet boys basketball team where he won over 400 games, including a 1999 appearance in the state final four.
Liedtke never thought that someday he would become a girls head coach as friends and family would predict as the girls were always visible at the boys practices and games as they were growing up.
"I remember back then people would tell me I would be coaching the girls someday and I would say there's no way," joked Liedtke, who for the three years prior to this one coached both the boys and girls teams at the Fort. "Over time though you work with them and see the potential and I have really enjoyed it."
While Megan plays a key role coming off of the bench for the Lady Cadets, Morgan has played some of her best basketball of the season since tournament play began.
The elder Liedtke daughter scored 16 points in Saturday's 58-43 victory over Johnstown-Monroe that clinched the trip to Columbus and has averaged 15 points per game in tournament action.
"She (Morgan) just really understands the game and is very disciplined," said Dan Liedtke of Morgan, who is in her senior year at Fort Frye. " There is no selfishness. Whether it's rebounding or defense or scoring, she just does whatever we need her to do to help us win."
Morgan understands that opportunities like this one don't come along very often.
"We are really excited and have worked so hard to get here. It is just great for the whole community," said Morgan, who hopes to continue her playing career at the college level next year. "To be able to do it with my dad coaching and my sister is just awesome."
Megan, in her sophomore season, will not only get the chance to team with big sister Megan to try and win a state championship, but also to team with younger sister Makayla in the future.
"This has just been an awesome experience," said Megan. "There is just a special bond between all of us and I know as we get older this is something that we will always remember."
Megan's playing time has increased of late due to the season ending knee injury suffered by Michelle Adkins and Dan Liedtke has been pleased with her performance.
"She's playing really hard for us," said Coach Liedtke of his middle daughter. "She's going after loose balls and rebounding and just doing what she can to help us each game."
Thursday's tip-off is slated for 1 p.m. and as his Lady Cadets take the floor, Dan Liedtke will no doubt feel a sense of pride for more than one reason.
"I think about how much my father taught me and what it will be like for him to watch his granddaughters walk out at the Schottenstein Center," said Liedtke. "It's always something that I had in the back of my mind, but now that is is reality, it has made it really special as a coach and as a father."