COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- Fort Loramie coach Carla Siegel walked into her postgame interview session and offered an opening statement.
"My first comment is, 'Finally!'" she said, breaking into a wide smile.
After a quarter of a century around the program, her Redskins finally won a long anticipated title.
Second-team Associated Press All-Ohioan Darian Rose scored 19 points and seemed to be in the middle of every big play down the stretch, leading Fort Loramie past Berlin Hiland 57-42 in the Division IV final on Saturday night for its first state championship.
Siegel played at Fort Loramie, was an assistant coach for five years and the head coach for the past 14. The litany of disappointments in six previous trips to the state's final four came immediately to mind as her team closed out the big win.
"I was the assistant coach back in '97 when we were up by seven against Kalida and some people left the game thinking we were going to win and we lost on a 3-pointer toward the end of the game," she said. "In 2006, we played Berlin Hiland and it was a great game and we lost by three. In 2010, we had the infamous meltdown, up by 18 and lost to Harvest Prep. Came back the following year and lost to Harvest Prep again."
"Yes, this is finally here."
Rose, a junior, hit all eight of her free throws and also had five rebounds and five assists as the Redskins (27-3) finally finished on top in their seventh trip to the state tournament.
During one late span, Rose had four points and added an assist in an 8-2 run.
"When (Hiland post player Jasmine Goings) fouled out, I knew that I could drive to the hole and dish out to my teammates," Rose said. "I tried to make things happen at the end."
Regina Hochstetler poured in 23 points for Hiland (26-4), denied its fifth state title in a record 13 trips to the final four.
Hawks coach Dave Schlabach praised the effort by Fort Loramie, particularly on defense.
"Fort Loramie's pressure really made us feel uncomfortable throughout the game," he said. "That's the best defensive team we've seen all year. They keep you off balance, they're so long."
Holding onto a tenuous 34-28 lead through three quarters, the Redskins stretched it to 39-30 on a drive by Jessica Boerger and Paige Ordean's three-point play off an assist from Rose.
But Hiland wasn't going away.
On consecutive possessions, Hochstetler drilled 3-pointers to cut the lead to 41-36 with 5 minutes remaining.
When Hochstetler netted a baseline runner a minute later, the lead was down to 43-40.
"I felt like that started the momentum a little bit," Hochstetler said. "But we couldn't keep it."
Rose hit a huge shot when she swished a 12-foot jumper from the left side with 3 minutes left to push the lead back to five.
After the teams traded baskets, Renae Meyer, who finished with 10 points and 11 rebounds, grabbed a missed Hiland shot and was fouled and made both free throws for a 49-42 lead with 1:43 remaining.
The Hawks missed shots sandwiched around a turnover and Rose was fouled with just under a minute on the clock. She drilled both shots and the lead was 51-42.
Rose then rebounded another miss by Hiland and was fouled, again making both once more to give Fort Loramie a 53-42 lead with 38.5 seconds left that put a capper on it.
Fort Loramie, at the state tournament for the third time in four years, opened the game by scoring the first six points and maintained the upper hand throughout a defensive-oriented first half.
The Redskins led 14-9 after a quarter and 22-19 at the break. Hiland had eight turnovers in the first 10 minutes but just two over the last 6 minutes of the half.
For a change, the village of Fort Loramie had something to remember instead of another ignominious defeat to forget.
"It was always a goal to win a state title," Siegel said. "It's been a dream for every team that I've helped coach. To finally get it, it's for the whole community. It's for every girl who ever put that Loramie jersey on, for every girl who wanted to win a state title and put that banner on the wall. That's what this means to me today."
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