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Fulfilling a lifelong dream for Liedtke

As a kid, Dan Liedtke used to imagine himself on Ohio State’s St. John Arena basketball court in front of hundreds of fans at the state tournament.

When Liedtke guided the Fort Frye boys to the Final Four in 1999, he was excited to finally get that opportunity. Little did he know, the tournament would be played at the Jerome Schottenstein Center.

“My dream as a kid and my dream as a coach was to take Fort Frye to St. John Arena,” said Liedtke, who has more than 600 career coaching victories with the Cadets. “When we finally, finally got there, they moved it. And I didn’t even realize that until that time coming.”

Don’t get the veteran coach wrong. He was still extremely thrilled for the opportunity for his team to play at state.

“I mean, naturally, it was great that we were going to state, but I was a little disappointed because they moved it,” he admitted.

In 2013, Liedtke got back to state as the girls coach. That year, Fort Frye played Africentric in the state semifinals, losing a heart-breaker 43-40 on the Schottenstein Center floor.

Seven years later, the Cadets (26-2) are going back to Columbus for state, defeating Notre Dame 49-31 in the regional final on Saturday. This time, Liedtke will get to fulfill his dream.

“My dream was always to go to St. John Arena as a kid and as a coach, so this one’s really special for me,” he said.

The Ohio High School Athletic Association announced in August of last year that the girls tournament would return to St. John Arena for a year. It is currently undetermined where the 2021 tournament will be played. Almost like it was fate, the Cadets reached the Final Four the one year the tournament will for sure be played at Liedtke’s dream venue.

Regarding the 2013 Cadets, that team included two of Liedtke’s daughters — Morgan and Megan Liedtke.

Morgan was a senior on the team and a standout shooting guard. Megan came off the bench as a sophomore, giving the team some depth down low.

It was a special opportunity for coach Liedtke to get to watch two of his daughters play on the big stage. He did express some regret, though, about not getting to coach his youngest daughter, Makayla, at the state tournament.

“That still stings,” he said.

Two years after Fort Frye made the Final Four in 2013, the Cadets got to the regional final in Logan. That team featured Megan, who was now a senior, and Makayla, a sophomore, as starters. In the regional championship game against Fairland, the Cadets came up just short, falling 31-28.

“We got to this game (regional final), but we didn’t win it,” Liedtke said.

Though Makayla never got to play in the state tournament, she did go on to compete at the collegiate level. She recently wrapped up her junior season with the Rio Grande RedStorm.

Megan graduated from Rio in 2019, while Morgan, who played collegiately at Marietta, is currently an assistant for her father.

To get to the state tournament is a grind.

No matter how good a team may be, winning two sectional games, two district games and two regional games takes a lot of focus, hard work and preparation. Those are three qualities this Fort Frye team absolutely possesses.

Liedtke touched on what it took for his team to get to this point.

“We worked on it,” he said. “It’s a long way to get here. It really is. Game after game, you’ve just got to take them one at a time. These girls, the days that I give them breaks, they’re down in the weight room lifting. This is the kind of group I’ve got here. Those kinds of kids are going to get you places.”

Jordan Holland is an associate sports editor for The Marietta Times. He can be reached at jholland@mariettatimes.com

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