River, Fort Frye set to vie for 3A championship

Same venue, new opponent for Dan Liedtke and his Fort Frye Lady Cadets.

Certainly no strangers to the spacious confines of Ohio University-Eastern’s Health & Physical Education complex, the Lady Cadets are making their fourth consecutive appearance in a Wheeling Hospital-OVAC Girls’ Basketball Championship Game.

When Fort Frye and River tip off Saturday afternoon (12:30) in this season’s 3A title tilt, Liedtke’s talent-laden quint will be vying for its third conference postseason title.

Previously, Fort Frye was victorious one year ago, defeating Monroe Central for the 3A crown. In 2011, the Cadets were subdued by Shadyside in a 2A finale.

And in 2010, the Beverly-based Lady Cadets toppled Shadyside to claim their initial OVAC trophy.

Following a highly-successful 27-year tenure as head boys’ hoop coach at Fort Frye, Liedtke -somewhat reluctantly – stepped down to fully concentrate on taking over a girls’ program which has flourished during his four-season tenure.

Saturday, the 18-3 Cadets face a River quint responsible for handing FF one of its three setbacks. The two teams split a pair of regular season encounters.

As River’s nine-season hoop boss Rick Isaly painfully recalls, his Lady Pilots were soundly beaten by a 63-36 count in an early-season battle at Beverly.

River, however, rebounded dramatically in the rematch on its homecourt at Hannibal. There, Isaly’s club mounted a 15-point upperhand only to see Fort Frye roar back to force overtime before River regrouped to post a 46-42 victory.

Naturally, both coaches speak highly of their respective opponent.

“We didn’t play well at all (at River) but give them credit. River has some talented players and they caused us some problems (in the rematch),” Liedtke reported.

Obviously pleased to have earned a split, Isaly fully acknowledges the Cadets will be a formidable foe in Saturday’s rubber match encounter.

“Fort Frye is such a well-rounded team,” he observed. They’re very well-coached and most of their girls have been playing together for years.”

INDEED, Liedtke has four well-schooled seniors, at least three of whom will be continuing their cage careers at the next level.

Liedtke need look no further than across the dinner table for one of the Lady Cadets’ leading catalysts.

His eldest daughter, 5-8 senior Morgan Liedtke, is among the district’s most fundamentally sound players and has collegiate offers from three Ohio schools.

A 10 points-per-game contributor, Liedtke is an adept shooter – particularly behind the three-point line – where she has been especially effective of late.

Another prime time performer – Diedra Combs – is a versatile 5-10 player who’s taking her talents to West Virginia Conference member school Fairmont State College.

In Taylor Buchanan, the Lady Cadets have yet another go-to type player who presents frequent mismatch problems for opponents.

The 5-10 Buchanan, who has signed with a Division II program in West Palm Beach (Fla.) sports a 12 ppg. average and is known for her aggressiveness going to the basket.

Fort Frye’s fourth senior vet is two-year letterman Micayla Hupp, a 5-11 inside presence.

Lone junior in Fort Frye’s starting lineup is certainly no less productive. In fact, the 5-6 Brooke Borich is herself a heady player and a perfect fit in the Cadets’ system.

Borich nets some eight points per start and like many of her teammates, is an accurate shooter from the perimeter.

Fort Frye advanced to Saturday’s title tilt with a 71-41 semifinal homecourt triumph over Monroe Central.

RIVER’S Lady Pilots are making their initial championship game appearance in the Wheeling Hospital/OVAC event.

“We’re thrilled to (be here). At the same time, our goal is to play the best game we can against who we realize is a very good opponent,” Isaly related.

“Obviously, we know what it takes to (beat Fort Frye). It takes an outstanding 32-minute effort. We have to limit mistakes and try and limit them to one shot per possession.”

Isaly is expected to send three seniors, a sophomore and a highly-regarded freshman to the floor for Saturday’s tipoff.

The Lady Pilots have a smooth operating, four-year letterwinner in 5-5 senior guard Cassidy McCullough.

McCullough is a 14 points-per-game scorer and three-year starter whose overall floor game includes steady ball distribution and defensive prowess.

Laken Ramsay, a 5-8 senior, is River’s wheeling, dealing point guard. Ramsay has scored at a 13 ppg. clip this season.

Not necessarily a potent scorer though a integral part of River’s success is 5-9 senior Emile Weaver, a three-season letterwinner.

Sophomore Haylee Bowers, at 5-5, is an aggressive guard known for her fearless play.

One of the valley’s most promising young prospects is 6-1 freshman Jensen Caretti, whose presence was felt immediately this season.

Caretti has averaged just over 12 points per game and is bringing down some 10 boards per start. She’s also swatting away three shots per night.

Off the Pilots’ bench comes 5-3 junior guard Landyn Ramsay, younger sibling of Laken. In River’s 56-39 semifinal victory over Shenandoah, Landyn sparked the Scarlet & Gray with a clutch 14-point outing.

Three additional seniors adding to the mix include 5-10 experienced vet Leslie Young, a two-year letterwinner who hits the boards with regularity.

The Lady Pilots’ senior contingent includes guards Hannah Jones (5-5) and Myla Smith (5-4). “Hannah and Myla are scrappy players with strong work ethics,” Isaly offered.