By DAVE HANNEMAN
COLUMBUS — Ottoville and Minster have already had one dress rehearsal for an encore performance of their 2018 Division IV state championship game.
When the curtain goes up for today’s 5:15 p.m. Division IV final at the Schottenstein Center, the rematch will be for real.
It will be a be a state-final rematch for all the small-school marbles when Ottoville (25-3) and Minster (27-1) lock horns.
Minster, ranked second in the final Associated Press Division IV poll. will be looking for its second straight state crown — and fourth overall — after beating Ottoville 63-48 in last year’s D-IV championship game.
The two schools also met a in regular-season contest earlier this year. Minster also won that game — the 19th game of the season for the Wildcats, the 20th for No. 6-ranked Ottoville — by a 46-28 margin.
Minster looked just impressive in Friday’s first Division IV semifinal. The Wildcats got 18 points and nine rebounds from Courtney Prenger, a 6-foot-2 senior headed to Xavier on a basketball scholarship, and 12 points and six assists from Ivy Wolf, named the Midwest Athletic Conference Player of the Year as a sophomore, in pasting No. 9-ranked Willoughby Cornerstone Christian 65-31.
Ottoville held off Shadyside 50-43 in Friday’s second semifinal.
Ottoville coach Dave Kleman has a little mantra he teaches his players, a list of the important things in the game of basketball that Kasey Knippen and Haley Hoersten astutely demonstrated in the interview room following Friday’s win.
“What puts (people) in the seats?” Kleman asked the girls.
“Scoring,” they responded.
“What wins games?” Kleman asked.
“Defense,” they answered in unison.
“And what wins championships?” he asked.
And without hesitation both replied, “Rebounds.”
“They’ve heard that a lot, beacuse that’s what we preach,” Kleman said.
Ottoville outrebounded Shadyside 34-28. But Shadyside had no player taller than 5-8, while Minster has five standing 5-10 or better.
“We have to stay even or win the rebounding battle with Minster … and that’s a really tall order,” Kleman punned after Friday’s win locked up the state title game rematch.’
“We played Liberty-Benton late in the regular season. They were undefeated, ranked No. 2 in the state at the time. They were a lot bigger than us, but we outrebounded them 31-16 to win the ball game.
“We need that same kind of effort against Minster, because it’s more like David and Goliath.”
And, according to Kleman, not just when it come to feet and inches.
“We are probably one of the 15 smallest schools in the state of Ohio,” Kleman said. “We have 42, 43 total girls in our top three classes. We have five junior girls, total, in our entire school.
“Minster is two, two-and-a-half times bigger than us. And they’re always good. You go in their school and see all the championship banners, you need a calculator to count them all.”
The challenge, Kleman, knows, will not be easy. Nothing really worthwhile is.
“Nothing you get in life is easy,” he said. “We’re going to go out, do the best we can do and hope it’s good enough that day.
“Regardless of what happens, we’re going to fight them tooth and nail. If it’s a win, it’s a win. If it’s not, it’s not.
“It’s a 50-50 chance, am I right?”