Morning Buzz: "Gym Rats" Find Niche In Postseason

Minster's Ivy Wolf and Janae Hoying perform their pregame routine before Saturday's Division IV state final at the Schottenstein Center in Columbus.
Sports Editor

It's the Monday after the Minster Wildcats won the Division IV state final in girls basketball, their third such title in the program.

Follow this link to read the game recap.

For pictures of Saturday's Division IV state final, see our Facebook Page.

A pair of freshmen nicknamed "gym rats" have left their mark on this postseason run for Minster. Here is the story below. See Monday's print edition of The Evening Leader for more coverage of the Division IV state final.

For a team full of Wildcats, they had no problem letting a pair of “gym rats” into their domain.

And that kindness ended up giving the Wildcats a state title.

Nicknamed “gym rats” because of their energy and tenacity they bring as just freshmen, Ivy Wolf and Janae Hoying are the main reason Minster claimed its 33rd state title and fourth in a calendar year.

“They’re always in the gym,” Courtney Prenger said of Wolf and Hoying. “The energy that they give our team, I think that’s the biggest thing. Yeah, they score a lot of points, and that’s important, and they can play defense, but the love they have for the game is incredible. They bring that to the rest of us. When you lose it a little bit, they don’t let you forget.”

Before the season began, Minster head coach Mike Wiss highlighted Wolf as a player to watch, and she did not disappoint as the freshman’s first varsity game of her high school career ended with a team-high 19 points, 16 of those coming in the first three quarters, of a 51-36 season-opening victory against Kalida.

Wolf went on to be named to the All-Midwest Athletic Conference team as a first-team selection as she led the conference in free throw percentage (88 percent) and led the team with 64 steals, which was fifth-most in the MAC.

In the Division IV district tournament, Wolf opened with 12 points archrival New Bremen and seven points in a regional-clinching win against Fort Recovery two days later.

At regionals, both Wolf and Hoying showed that the stage — a regional tournament stage that has seen Minster fall in the last two seasons — was not too big for them.

Wolf tallied eight points in both games, while Hoying’s defensive presence showed throughout both contests.

But it was the state tournament where these two “rats” took center stage.

Wolf scored eight points on 3-of-8 shooting from the floor and 2-of-4 from the free throw line, while dishing out a team-high five assists and collecting three steals in a state semifinal win against top-ranked Waterford.

“Ivy was special today,” Wiss said after Thursday’s win. “We do a goal card once or twice a month and I gave them their last goal card of the season on Monday. Ivy’s goal card was to let everyone see that this little girl could play on the big stage. That was her basketball goal on the card.

“How she handled it when there was a double team on the floor and sometimes to attack and sometimes to pull back and run time off the clock, she is not a freshman anymore.”

Enter Hoying as the other “rat” catapulted Minster’s comeback in the state final against Ottoville two days later with a 3-pointer with 4:51 left in the third quarter to tie the game since the early minutes of the opening stanza, 29-29.

Then Hoying collected one of her two steals when she stripped Kasey Knippen at mid court and drove in for a layup to give Minster its first lead since the 7:44 mark of the first quarter.

“I knew it was going to be hard, because Ottoville has good guards,” Hoying said. “We had to have great defense and had to be able to push it through and control pressure and everything to make it to the other end. We got it under control and we settled in.”

Those five points Hoying accumulated in a matter of 17 seconds were a part of her 13 second-half points in the game.

“We knew that in order for us to make a run, with the talent that we had in the junior and senior classes, Janae had to be a part of it as an extra guard,” Wiss said. “We started to work Janae in during the middle of January, and it continued to grow.”

And after Minster defeated Ottoville 55-54 in a home non-conference game on Jan. 20, Hoying caught the attention of Big Green coach Dave Kleman during the junior varsity game.

“She was playing JV (junior varsity) and we were like, ‘Mike, what are you doing? Get her off the JV and let our girls have a chance.’ She’s a heck of a ball player,” Kleman said after Saturday’s game.

And in the end, Kleman got his wish. He got to see Hoying playing varsity against his team and unfortunately for him, that “rat” made him pay.

“Putting her into the mix, that’s a whole new dynamic,” Wiss said of Hoying. “The other thing is our guards like to put the ball in the air, and they can never forget (our two post players).

“I’m a big believer in the fact that, in the last three weeks when it was time for us to play our best, we got better at putting the ball in the post, clean entries to the post.”