By SCOTT COTTOS
FOSTORIA — Kenadee Siebenaller did not call the bank.
No matter. Every basket is big at tournament time.
And none was bigger for Hopewell-Loudon than Siebenaller’s 14-footer with 15.6 seconds left that lifted the Chieftains over Fremont St. Joseph 58-56 in a Division IV girls district championship game on Saturday night at Fostoria High School.
“I thought I was going to brick it,” said Siebenaller, one of six Hopewell-Loudon seniors. “I was worried.”
There were no worries a short time later as H-L celebrated its first district championship since 2007.
The Chieftains will take a 22-4 record into Thursday’s 8 p.m. regional semifinal against Ottoville (24-2), which finished the regular season ranked No. 2 in the Associated Press Division IV poll.
Hopewell-Loudon whipped St. Joe 66-42 in a regular-season game on Dec. 30.
Chieftains coach Bob Gase, who was an assistant to Jeff Ritzler when H-L went to the regional in 2007, expected a closer contest on Saturday night, and he got it.
“I thought it was going to be tight. They do a good job,” he said, referring to the Crimson Streaks. “The last four games we played in, they were there scouting. So, there’s no surprise here.”
Hailey Coppus, a 5-foot-5 senior, nailed five 3-pointers in the second half while scoring a game-high 18 points for the Chieftains, who St. Joseph ousted from tournament play each of the last two seasons.
“It means everything,” Coppus said of the district title. “I mean, bringing pride back to Hopewell. We’ve been working for this ever since we got into fifth or sixth grade. We’ve been playing day in and day out, getting in the gym and working hard and pushing each other to get better. It means everything right now.”
Classmate Jacque Burns scored 17 points for H-L, as did freshman MaKayla Elmore. The 6-foot-3 Elmore, a major contributor all season, also recorded game highs of 17 rebounds and four steals.
“We wanted this game bad,” Elmore said. “We got it.”
But it didn’t come without a battle from the Crimson Streaks, who won the Sandusky Bay Conference River Division championship and finished their regular season with a 21-4 record.
St. Joseph erased an early six-point deficit and led by as many as five in the second half before coming up short in a back-and-forth fourth quarter.
Senior Adrienne Wehring collected 17 points, 12 rebounds, three assists and three steals for the Streaks, and speedy senior point guard Miranda Wammes scored 15 points and passed for four assists.
“It was a great game,” St. Joseph coach Mallory Holliday said. “I mean, if you’re going to lose a game, in my opinion, that’s the way to do it. They played their hearts out, especially compared to the first time we played (the Chieftains). We looked like a totally different team this time.”
One minute and 10 seconds after making her final 3-pointer, Coppus converted an and-one, putting Hopewell-Loudon up 56-53 with 2:11 left in the game.
Wammes split a pair of free throws with 1:04 showin to make it 56-54 before Wehring hit a tough driving shot between two defenders to tie the contest at 56 with 40.9 seconds left.
After an H-L timeout with 30.7 seconds left, Siebenaller moved a step into the middle of the lane from the foul line and let fly. The ball went through the net after smacking off the square on the backboard.
“(Gase) always preaches in practice, ‘Take the shot you would take in the last second,'” said Siebenaller, who finished with six points, five rebounds and two blocked shots. “And that’s what happened.”
Wehring wasn’t quite done, as she drove to the basket at the other end. But Elmore blocked the shot and the ensuing loose ball went out of bounds and gave H-L possession. Elmore missed a short shot with 2 seconds to play, but Wehring’s heave from a few steps behind midcourt with nine-tenths of a second left was well off the mark.
“It means a lot,” Siebenaller said of her team’s regional bid. “My sophomore and junior years, we got knocked out by St. Joe in the first round of the tournament. So, it means a lot. It’s exciting. We never made it this far before, so I’m excited that we’re moving on.”
Freshman point guard Olivia Zender handed out eight assists for the Chieftains, who were 23 of 65 (35 percent) from the field overall but 9 of 16 (56 percent) from 3-point territory.
Callie Kelbley matched Wehring with three steals for the Crimson Streaks, who made 21 of 59 shots from the floor (35 percent) but were outrebounded 34-27.
Elmore 6-2–17, Burns 8-0–17, Coppus 6-1–18, Siebenaller 3-0–6. TOTALS: 23-65 3-5 — 58.
FREMONT ST. JOSEPH (21-4)
Michael 3-0–9, Wehring 8-0–17, Casperson 3-0–8, Kelbley 2-0–5, Wammes 4-5–15, Burns 1-0–2. TOTALS: 21-59 5-8 — 56.
Hopewell-Loudon 15 5 18 20 — 58
St. Joseph 9 9 21 17 — 56
3-Point GOALS: Hopewell-Loudon 9-16 (Coppus 5, Elmore 3, Burns 1); St. Joseph 9-25 (Michael 3, Casperson & Wammes 2, Wehring & Kelbley 1).
rebounds: Hopewell-Loudon 34 (Elmore 17); St. Joseph 27 (Wehring 12).
turnovers: Hopewell-Loudon 14, St. Joseph 15.