Stage set for Cadet girls in state semis

BEVERLY – Fort Frye is quite familiar with defending Division III state champion Columbus Africentric, its semifinal opponent in Value City Arena at 1 p.m. Thursday.

And vice versa.

A year ago, the Cadets bowed out of postseason tournament play with a 21-3 overall mark when they dropped a 66-54 decision to the Nubians in a regional semifinal at the Ohio University Convocation Center.

After Africentic staked itself to a 23-10 lead on 10-of-12 first-quarter shots, including 3-of-3 from behind the arc, it never looked back.

“They’re really good,” recalled Fort Frye senior Deidra Combs, who scored 20 points in that semi at the Convo. “It’ll be a pretty good game (Thursday), I hope.” (Combs was recently named to the All-Ohio third team.)

The Fort actually rebounded and outpointed the Nubians 44-43 after the opening stanza. In the third quarter, the Cadets even reduced the deficit to single digits (seven).

In the second half, FFHS shot 12 of 17 from the field.

But in the final analysis, it proved to be too big of a hole to climb out of on the Convo floor.

“Yes, they’ll be tough,” said FFHS senior sharpshooter Morgan Liedtke, an All-Ohio Honorable Mention. “But, I think anyone can win it, now.”

Fort Frye (25-3) has good reason to be confident if last Saturday’s 58-43 regional triumph over Johnstown-Monroe in Logan is an indicator. While the Johnnies had a height advantage underneath, the scrappy Cadets were not intimidated and had a more balanced attack with all five starters scoring eight or more points.

“We all worked as a team, and everybody chips in,” said Fort senior Micayla Hupp, who finished with 10 points.

Liedtke led the way with 16 points, including four treys. eight rebounds and three steals. Taylor Buchanan added 11 points, seven rebounds and four steals, and Brooke Borich and Combs chipped in with eight markers apiece.

Combs also had team-highs in caroms (nine), steals (five) and assists (four).

Non-starter Shawntell Parsons contributed five points, including one 3-ball.

In a physical game, the Fort had 19 turnovers with most of them coming just before the half when Johnstown pressed and went on a 15-6 run to cut it to 30-26.

“I think we got a little rattled by their press,” said Buchanan, an All-Ohio Special Mention honoree. “That was one thing they (Johnstown) did well.”

After the break, Fort Frye’s defense put the clamps on the Johnnies and limited them to a combined 17 points in the third and fourth quarters.

“We knew we could win it if we did our thing,” Buchanan said. “I’m just happy that we came out a winner.”

Make that both a first-time regional final winner and champion. Oh, yes, the Cadets’ 25th victory of the season is a program-best at the Beverly-based school.

On the same day over in Lexington, Africentic (21-6) returned to state by virtue of its 60-42 win against Archbold in a regional final. The Will McKinney-coached Nubians were led by University of Cincinnati-bound Marley Hill, who had a double-double with 14 points and 13 rebounds.

The 6-foot-2 All-Ohio first team honoree and Player of the Year also blocked six shots.

Ayrielle Stith added 12 markers, six boards and three steals. The Nubians’ pressure defense forced 21 Archbold turnovers and produced 26 points.

In last year’s game against Fort Frye, Hill (14) and Stith (11) combined to score 25 points.

Africentic’s guards include Sierra Harley, Kyra Jones, Darianne Seward and Alexis Parks. All played in last year’s game against the Cadets.

Africentric and Fort Frye had one common opponent during the season as both lost to W.Va. Class A champion Huntington St. Joe.

“They’re (Africentric) a different kind of team to play,” said Fort Frye head coach Dan Liedtke after the regional triumph Saturday.

“They really are. We’ve just got to learn their style and find a way to compete with them.”

On Friday, 10th-ranked (Reedsville) Eastern (23-4) hooks up with Belin Hiland (25-3) in the Division IV semifinals. Tipoff is set for 1 p.m.

The John Burdette-coached Eastern Eagles are making their first state tournament appearance. Three Eagle players average in double figures, including junior Jenna Burdette at 18.0 points per game.

The Hawks from Berlin Hiland are making their eighth state tournament appearance in the past 10 years and 13th overall under veteran coach Dave Schlabach. The Hawks are led in scoring by Regina Hochstetler at 17.7 points per game.