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Fort Frye girls take on Minster in state semis today

Photo by Ron Johnston Fort Frye’s Liv Schneider (10) and Hannah Archer guard Notre Dame’s Ava Hassel during Saturday’s regional final at Pickerington North.

BEVERLY — Unranked Fort Frye has defeated two straight OHSAA Division IV Top 10-ranked girls basketball teams on its journey to the Final Four.

The Cadets are hoping to make it three in row when they play No. 8 Minster in a semifinal at 8 p.m. Thursday at St. John Arena in Columbus.

“I’ve got a great coaching staff, and we’ll get together and watch film,” said FFHS head coach Dan Liedtke, whose last state tournament appearance with Fort was in 2013. “We’ll try to learn everything we can.”

Dan Liedtke’s staff includes Chad Ross, Pat Lang, and Morgan Liedtke

“The key thing is that we play Fort Frye basketball and our game,” Coach Liedtke said.

Fort (26-2), winners of 17 straight, advanced to state with a 37-28 regional semi triumph over No. 4 Sugar Creek Berne Union and 49-31 regional final win against over No. 2 Portsmouth Notre Dame at Pickerington North last Thursday and Saturday, respectively.

“It’s a dream come true,” said Cadet guard Lexie Huck after Fort beat the Titans to clinch a state berth.

Sharpshooter Hannah Archer, the team’s leading scorer, agreed and added, “It feels unreal that we’re one of four teams at state. It’s unbelievable.”

Against Notre Dame, Huck scored a game-high 13 points, including three triples, and Archer, who was defended closely by the Titans (and Berne Union), chipped in with eight markers.

“I knew I had to step my game up if we’re going to go to state,” Huck said. “I’ve been practicing shooting a lot and it’s paid off.”

Said Archer, “Whenever other teams do that to me (play a junk defense), my teammates just step up. It’s not like there’s one player on the team that can score 20 points. On any given night anyone of us can.

“We all work together really well, and we have really good chemistry. It’s exciting.”

Smiling, Kenzie Dalton, who tallied 12 points against ND, said that “You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.”

“We want it,” the Fort guard added. “So, if we work for it, we can get it. That’s the key. Everyone on this team can score.”

After Cadet guard Liv Schneider drained a third-quarter 3 during a 9-0 run versus the Titans to give FFHS a 25-18 lead, she became emotional, jumping and punching the air.

“Anybody can do anything at any time,” Schneider said. “Even if the other team stops one person, that’s not going to stop us.”

Kiersten Kesselring, the starting center and only senior on the Cadet roster, looks at her teammates as “sisters.”

“We’re all family,” she said. “We spend so many hours together. We’re each other’s best friend. We love each other. Truly.”

After a relatively close first half and 20-14 advantage, Fort took command of the game in the third quarter and beat Notre Dame going away.

“Coach (Liedtke) also says that the third quarter is what wins the game,” Huck said. “And, in the third quarter, everything came together offensively and defensively. It was great.”

Here’s something that could give Minster pause: All five of Fort Frye’s starters — Huck, Archer, Dalton, Schneider, and Kesselring — can shoot and make the trifecta. And, that kind of stretches an opponent’s perimeter defense and opens up the middle.

Then, there’s the bench, and Fort has a good one with Riley Medley, Karlee Ross, Julia Zalmanek, and Gwen Rauch.

The Cadet roster also includes Khloee Ross, Grace Brockmeier, Maggie White, Mattie Schneider, and Meadow Rauch.

“I’m so proud of everybody,” Liv Schneider said. “We’ve been playing together for a while now and working for this moment. We want to go all the way, and that’s what we’re going to work for.”

As the two-time defending state champion, Minster is expected to be a handful. The Mike Wiss-coached Wildcats are paced by junior guards Ivy Wolf and Janae Hoying. The seniors are Averi Wolfe, Lauren Mox, and Mara Schmeising.

Ella Mescher is a sophomore to keep an eye on.

Minster, the Midwestern Athletic Conference (MAC) champ, got to state for the third straight winter with a 65-30 drubbing of Wayne Trace in a regional final tilt.

So, will the Cadets be nervous?

You betcha. (And so will the Wildcats.)

“Yes, but you can’t let your nerves get to you,” Schneider said.

Added Dalton, “We’re all kind of nervous, but we just want it so bad.”

Kesselring is looking forward to the challenge.

“I get to play another game,” she said. “I’m not done. I’m so excited for that.”

Ron Johnston can be reached at rjohnston@mariettatimes.com

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