By DAVE HANNEMAN
COLUMBUS — The way things are going for Minster High School, they may want to start ordering trophy cases by the gross.
All-Ohio center Courtney Prenger dominated early, sophomore sharpshooter Janae Hoying heated up in the second half and Minster cranked up the defensive pressure when it mattered most in earning a 53-37 win over Ottoville on Saturday in the Division IV girls state championship game at the Schottenstein Center.
The game was a rematch of last year’s small-school state final, with the same result. Minster won that game 63-48 for a school that has now raised 36 state championship banners. Five have come in girls sports over the past two years: two each in girls cross country and girls basketball, another in girls track.
Minster has reached the girls state basketball tournament five times. On Saturday, the Wildcats capped a 28-1 season by bringing home their fourth gold trophy.
Ottoville completed a 25-4 season. The Big Green took home the runner-up trophy for the second straight year and third time in eight trips to the state Final Four.
Dave Kleman, who has compiled a 534-127 career record in his 27 seasons as Ottoville’s head coach, refused to be despondent in the loss.
“I told the girls they had 10 minutes to get their crying done, because it’s not a sad day,” Kleman said. “It’s a good day. We finished No. 2 in the state to a Minster team that’s a good team, a quality team. They’re well-coached, they have good players and, really, off the floor, we kind of like them. On the floor we don’t, because there’s that competitive thing.
“I told the girls it’s like playing the New England Patriots for everybody else in the NFL. If we could just get them out of the way, everybody else would have a chance to win the dang thing.
“But they’re very good kids, and I’m extremely proud of our girls. We got as much out of them as we could today. We just didn’t get enough points, that’s all.”
Prenger, a 6-foot-2 center who will play college ball at Xavier University, scored 16 points, grabbed a team-high eight rebounds and blocked three shots. Hoying, a 5-6 sophomore guard, was 3 of 4 on 3-pointers and scored a game-high 19 points.
Prenger and Hoying were the yin and the yang of Minster’s multi-dimensional offense, especially in the second and third quarters when the Wildcats outscored Ottoville by 10 points in each period and 33-13 overall.
When Ottoville tried to contain Minster’s inside game with man-to-man defense, the Wildcats pounded it inside to Prenger. The senior center had Minster’s first basket of the game, four of the Wildcats’ first six points in the second period and the first two baskets of the third.
When Ottoville switched to a 2-3 zone to shut down Prenger, Hoying heated up from outside. She hit back-to-back 3-pointers and a driving layup during a 10-1 second-quarter burst that put Minster up 25-17, and scored twice in transition and nailed another 3-pointer when Minster’s lead ballooned to 42-25 with just less than two minutes left in the third.
“When we tried the zone to try and stop Prenger, they hit some 3s,” Kleman said. “So, we went to man to help cover that and then they threw it into Prenger inside.
“Mike (Minster coach Mike Wiss) is not stupid. He’s a pretty smart guy. He’s going to figure out what you’re trying to play and they’re going to take advantage of that any way that they can.
“That’s exactly what I’d have done.”
Ottoville got off to a slow start, missing three shots and committing two turnovers in a scoreless 3:40 start to the game. But Kasey Knippen made one basket, Nicole Knippen made two and Quinley Schlagbaum’s three-point play and Alexa Honigford’s transition basket put the Big Green up 13-9 after one nervous quarter of play.
“Ottoville took it right to us that first quarter. If anything, they were playing with a little bit of an edge and we weren’t,” Wiss said. “After several TV timeouts, a good quarter break and an even better halftime, we turned it around. At every dead ball situation, we continued to say Courtney (Prenger) needs to touch the ball. We had a couple of sets where she got the ball not so far down on the blocks, up the lane a little bit, where a double-team might not be as successful.
“Janae (Hoying) hit a few jumpers, we started pressuring the ball in the full court, we got some steals and some easy layups. That third quarter really changed the tempo of the game.”
Ottoville outrebounded Minster 31-25, a major concern of Kleman’s entering the game. But the Big Green shot just 30 percent from the field (12 of 40) and turned the ball over 16 times to just six for the Wildcats.
“(Minster) is so physically strong they just wear you down,” Kleman said. “Defensively, they make it so tough for you to get an open look. They contest everything. That’s what makes them so good defensively.
“No excuses, though. We did what we could do. It just wasn’t enough today.”
Haley Hoersten scored 10 points, Kasey Knippen nine and Schlagbaum seven. Nicole Knippen grabbed nine rebounds and Kasey Knippen six.
Four Ottoville players completed their prep basketball careers on Saturday. Someone asked if Kleman might be considering the same after a highly successful 28-year career
“Don’t ask those questions,” Kleman cautioned. “Let me evaluate a little bit; give me a couple of weeks. It’s been fun, and I wouldn’t have done it this long if I didn’t enjoy the kids.”
Hanneman 1-4 0-0 3, H. Hoersten 3-8 4-6 10, Schlagbaum 2-5 2-3 7, N. Knippen 2-7 2-2 6,l K. Knippen 3-14 0-=0 9, Honigford 1-2 0-0 2, Thomas 0-0 0-0 0, K. Hoersten 0-0 0-0 0, G. Gamble 0-0 0-0 0, German 0-0 0-0 0, F. Gamble 0-0 0-0 0, Leis 0-0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 12-40 8-11 — 37.
I. Wolf 4-9 0-0 9, Hoying 6-10 4-7 19, Falk 0-2 0-0 0, Prenger 7-13 2-2 16, D. Wolf 1-3 1-3 3, Barhordst 2-3 0-0 4, Ernst 0-0 0-0 0, Schmiessing 0-0 0-0 0, A. Wolf 0-0 0-0 0, Heuker 0-0 0-0 0, Pelletier 0-0 0-0 0, Mox 0-0 2-2 2. TOTALS: 20-42 9-14 — 53.
Ottoville 13 6 7 11 — 37
Minster 9 16 17 11 — 53
3-POINT GOALS: Ottoville 5-10 (Hanneman 1-3, Schlagbaum 1-1, N. Knippen 0-1, K. Knippen 3-5); Minster 4-13 (I. Wolf 1-5, Hoying 3-4, Falk 0-2, D. Wolf 0-2).
REBOUNDS: Ottoville 31 (N. Knippen 9, K. Knippen 6); Minster 25 (Prenger 8, D. Wolf 5).
TURNOVERS: Ottoville 16, Minster 6.