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Fort Frye headed in right direction, state finals

PICKERINGTON — After the opening tip-off, Fort Frye sophomore Hannah Archer got the ball and both teams started towards the Portsmouth Notre Dame Titans basket.

Everyone except Kiersten Kesselring.

She went the other, right way.

“We’re not used to winning tips,” smiled the 5-foot-9 senior center after unranked FFHS “upset” second-ranked Notre Dame, 49-31, in an OHSAA Division IV regional girls basketball final Saturday night at Pickerington North High.

Even Archer hesitated and had a puzzled expression on her face when she saw that Kesselring was so wide open at the Fort Frye end of the floor.

Catching Archer’s halfcourt pass, the left-handed-shooting Kesselring easily laid it off the glass for a 2-0 Fort advantage.

“It was definitely a good start,” said Kesselring, laughing.

And, an even better ending as the Cadets (25-2) advanced to the Final Four and are scheduled to play the eighth-ranked and two-time defending state champion Minster Wildcats (22-5) in a state tournament semifinal at 8 p.m. Thursday at St. John Arena in Columbus.

At 6 p.m. in the other semi, top-ranked and undefeated Fort Loramie (26-0) faces unranked Willoughby Cornerstone Christian (22-5).

Thursday’s winners will square off for all the D4 marbles at 2 p.m. Saturday at the same venue.

Ranked and unranked, is it a big deal?

Probably not so much to Fort Frye. The Cadets were never in the Top 10 for the entire winter but did receive 16 votes in the final poll.

“During the season, we just focus on winning and during the tournament, the team that wins moves on,” Archer said. “So, rankings don’t really matter at that point. I mean, we proved ourselves tonight, I think.”

Did they ever.

Notre Dame (24-3) was limited to a season-low 31 points. The Titans made only 12 of 43 shots and at one point in the contest missed 14 consecutive 3-attempts.

As the game progressed, the look on the Titan coaching staff and players was one of collective disbelief and frustration.

If not for a 13-point fourth quarter, ND would’ve been the sixth straight playoff team that Fort Frye held to under 30 points for the entire game.

“We work so hard on defense, and it’s paid off,” said Cadet guard Lexie Huck, who tallied 13 points against Notre Dame.

Remember the Titans? Well, you can forget about them, now.

Underdog Fort Frye will now get an opportunity to ambush their third straight Top 10 D4 opponent Thursday.

Minster figures to be a formidable opponent. Two years ago, it ousted Waterford in the state semis.

“The key thing is that we play Fort Frye basketball and our game,” said FFHS head coach Dan Liedtke.

And, if the Cadets have another “trick” opening tip-off play up their sleeves, know that Kesselring is good for a bunny.

Ron Johnston can be reached at rjohnston@mariettatimes.com

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