Sports Talk: Thrills and spills

Using your imagination, Olivia Newton-John’s “Let’s Get Physical” could’ve been the soundtrack music in the background while the Fort Frye girls’ basketball team was defeating Johnstown-Monroe, 58-43, in a Division III regional final at Jim Myers Gymnasium in Logan Saturday.

Even though an old song, recorded long before anyone on the 2012-13 Lady Cadet roster was born, it was relevant – at least, for this contest.

“We’re probably going to have some bruises tomorrow (Sunday),” said Fort Frye senior Deidra Combs after the victory, which clinched a state tournament berth in Columbus this week. (Fort Frye is scheduled to play Columbus Africentric in a semifinal at 1 p.m. Thursday.)

“It was a pretty rough game,” Combs continued, “and they (Johnstown) put up a really good fight, but we were pretty determined.”

A pretty rough game might be an understatement. Just about every player on both squads took a spill on the hardwood at one time or another during the game. Driving the lane invited contact, and underneath the hoop after a missed shot, every rebound seemingly was contested.

In basketball lingo, the refs were letting the girls play. Technically, if they’d wanted to, they could’ve officiated a foul-plagued contest.

“When you get to this level, it is physical,” said Fort Frye head coach Dan Liedtke. “I kept telling the girls to understand that a bump going to the basket is not a foul here.

“So, you’ve got to be tough, and you’ve got to play through it, and take care of the ball. Don’t expect them to call fouls.”

Perhaps miraculously, only one player – Johnstown sophomore Kerrigan Williams – got injured and had to be assisted off the floor just before the half. At the end of the game, though, she was limping under her own power.

“It was a physical game,” said Fort senior Taylor Buchanan. “Everybody was flying everywhere. Everyone gave it their all, because there was a lot on the line.”

A lot on the line like a first-time berth in The Final 4 in this week’s state tournament in Columbus. Simply put, both teams competed and played hard.

“I think once you get to this point, you just play, and you get tougher,” said Lady Cadet senior Micayla Hupp. “You just have to. This is how it is, I think.”

During late second-half action, Fort Frye junior point Brooke Borich had a Johnstown defender draped all over her while dribbling on the perimeter. But she kept her cool and possession of the ball.

“Oh, yeah, it was rough,” Borich said. “They had two big girls (6-2 Makenzie Spang and 6-foot Paige Cannon), and they were really strong. They weren’t going to give us any room. They were going to try to push us around. But we didn’t back down. We went right at them.”

Liedtke agreed and added, “I knew we were playing a good team. We knocked them back on their heels a little bit. They’d been doing that to other teams. That’s what they did to Fairland. We knew they were going to try to do that to us. We knew it was going to come down to a physical battle.”

After the game, during the cutting-down-the-net ceremony, Combs did the honors first.

“We just got in line, and I was closest,” said Combs later.

Thing is, as Combs approached and climbed the ladder, which was positioned in the lane under the basket, she looked around.

During the contest, if she’d had the ball, she likely would’ve gotten hammered in the same exact spot.

Ron Johnston is the Marietta Times sports editor, and can be reached at 376-5441 or at rjohnston@mariettatimes.com