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OVAC Champions

Fort Frye girls hand Union Local first loss for title

Photo by Seth Staskey Fort Frye’s Kiersten Kesselring battles for the rebound with Union Local’s Hannah Merritt during the Ohio Valley Athletic Conference 3A Championship game Saturday at Ohio Valley Eastern. The Cadets handed UL its first loss of the season.

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Throughout the regular season as it racked up win after win, Union Local was able to continually dictate the tempo and style of play in every game it played.

The Jets met their match Saturday evening in the Wheeling Hospital OVAC Girls Basketball Championship.

Fort Frye, which also hangs its hat on dictating the style of play, proved to be just a little bit better inside the Health and Physical Education Center at Ohio University Eastern as it pocketed a 46-41 victory to claim the Class 3A OVAC title in the nightcap.

“Really, we’re a transition team and our game plan was to be in a transition game (Saturday), but Union Local got down the floor faster than I thought they would,” Fort Frye head coach Dan Liedtke said. “We were doing a good job of getting back, so it kind of turned it into that type of game. It wasn’t that we meant to do that.”

Regardless of how, the method worked again for Liedtke. The veteran Cadets coach guided his team to their 10th conference title, but first since 2016. It also eliminated the bad taste that remained from the 2019 loss to Bellaire.

“This means a lot,” Liedtke said. “We lost here last year by two points and had a shot to win it, so this was definitely a goal to be back in this game. You have to take them one at a time and we never mentioned Union Local until we finished with Bellaire (in the semifinals).”

As they tend to do, the Cadets did it with suffocating defense. They held Union Local upwards of 30 points below their season average, including holding them to 14 combined points in the middle two periods.

“I don’t think we played poorly, but they played tremendous defense and we knew that coming in,” UL head coach Rob Barr said. “They posed a matchup problem for us and we knew that coming in, but we just hoped we’d provide a little bit more of a matchup problem.”

Union Local’s match-up problem was neutralized when the Cadets were able to sit down in the halfcourt and make the Jets work extremely hard for good looks, let alone buckets.

Union Local, which led 13-10 after one, trailed by five at halftime. In the fourth, Fort Frye stretched the lead to as many as seven twice, but each time Union Local answered.

However, the Jets got only as close as three when talented freshman center Reagan Vinskovich tallied on the interior. The Jets were obliged by the Cadets thanks to misses on front ends of three bonus situations, but Union Local had a field goal waived off on a travel call.

“We had chances to win, but Fort Frye made probably two more plays than we did,” Barr said. “We just couldn’t find anything on offense and that’s a credit to them. They play really good, disciplined man-to-man defense.”

Fort Frye had its own issues against Union Local’s match-up zone, but the Cadets aided their cause by knocking down eight bonus goals, including three by Olivia Schneider.

Lexie Huck also hit a key bonus goal in the fourth and stopped the Fort’s bleeding at the foul line to, in essence, salt the game away.

Hannah Archer, who was named the winner of the John Howell Award as the game’s MVP, led Fort Frye with 12 points. Schneider (9) and Huck (8) were next in line.

Union Local, which is now off for 11 days before opening Division III sectional play, was led by Vinskovich’s double-double of 12 points and 10 rebounds.

Freshman Torre Kildow and sophomore Hannah Merritt evenly divided 22 points.

“These girls will bounce back,” Barr said. “They’re down now, obviously. But, (Sunday) is a new day and we’ll take a day off and get back at it and see if we can start another streak.”

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