Rossford senior Garette Murphree shoots a three-point jump shot over a Kalida defender during second quarter of a game on November 23, 2022 at Rossford High School in Rossford, Ohio. Kalida defeated Rossford 67-59. (Photo by Scott W. Grau/Sentinel-Tribune)

ROSSFORD — Rossford boys basketball coach Brian Vorst saw his alma mater, Kalida, come into George Wolfe Field House and knock off the Bulldogs, 67-59, Wednesday in both teams’ season opener.

Before the game, a video presentation showed the 6-foot-6 Vorst scoring at Ohio State University’s St. John Arena as Kalida faced off with Columbus Wehrle in the 1988 Division IV state title game.

In response, Kalida fans gave Vorst an ovation.

It was a reunion of sorts, with Vorst family members and friends on both sides of the court, often sitting together. Six-foot-1 freshman Parker Vorst even led the Kalida junior varsity team to a victory.

In the varsity game, the Wildcats rebounded from a 30-15 early third quarter deficit to outscore the Bulldogs 52-29 over the final 14 minutes, including 29-17 in the fourth quarter.

Kalida coach Ryan Stechschulte said he talked to his players at halftime about how to deal with Rossford’s size, especially the coach’s son, 6-foot-9 senior Derek Vorst. It must have worked.

“The second half was a special effort,” Stechschulte said. “We talked a little bit at halftime about how our defensive effort was fantastic. “But we weren’t quite finishing plays with rebounds and second chance opportunities. We were just a little tentative offensively against that size.”

Four Kalida seniors reached double figures, led by 5-11 guard Drew Fersch, who had 20 points, nine rebounds and four steals.

Kalida guard E.J. Miller connected on five three-point goals in scoring 17 points, and he had two steals, forward Evan Stechschulte had 15 points and seven rebounds, and guard Jaden Smith had 11 points, five rebounds and two steals.

Fersch hit on 10-of-10 free throws in the fourth quarter, and as a team, the Wildcats made 16-of-19 free throws over the final eight minutes. The Wildcats also forced nine second half turnovers while committing just three.

“We start five seniors and those guys have played a lot of basketball together. The second half we just went at them, and the ball started going in a little bit,” coach Stechschulte said.

“E.J. Miller got hot shooting threes and we started spreading the floor a little bit and we just went from there. Kudos to our guys for making free throws at the end.”

As a team, Kalida shot 46% (21-for-46) from the field, made 19-of-27 free throws (70%) and had 10 turnovers. Rossford shot 50% (23-for-46) from the floor, made 5-of-12 from the charity stripe (42%), and had 16 turnovers.

Derek Vorst led the Bulldogs with 22 points and six rebounds, senior Garette Murphree scored 18 points on six treys, and senior Jake Morrison had 11 points and eight rebounds.

Senior Brandon Swope scored four points and junior Xavier Kellermeier and senior Brenden Revels scored two points apiece.

Coach Vorst hopes his team can learn from the loss.

“This is going to be a season of getting better throughout the course of the year,” he said. “I think we could have started a little stronger than this.

“The fact of the matter is we don’t play physical, we don’t play really hard, and then when you play a team like Kalida, that is what they are going to bring every day, no matter how good they are or how bad they are, or how medium they are.

“They are going to play hard and if you blink, they will take advantage of that and make you pay.”

The pregame video showed the basketball history of both schools, including the five Rossford teams (1932, 1937, 1966, 1970, 1975) that reached the state tournament with the 1966 and 1970 teams finishing as state runners-up.

Kalida has also been to state five teams, winning a state title in 1981 and finishing as runners-up in 1988 and 2009.

In 1988, Vorst scored 15 points as Kalida defeated Fort Loramie (24-3), 63-54, in the state semifinal, but the Wildcats (25-2) lost to Wehrle (26-2), 71-54, despite 24 points from Vorst.

Vorst played for coach Richard Kortokrax, who is the all-time winningest coach in Ohio history at 890-372. Kortokrax coached 1975-89 and 1991-2015 at Kalida, 1962-74 at Ottoville and 1960-61 at Fort Jennings, all Putnam County League schools.

The Rossford video included Kortokrax’s legacy.

“To see coach Kortokrox, that was emotional to me,” coach Vorst said. “I mean, that man was like a second father to me. So, that meant a lot.”

Coach Stechschulte said he and the Kalida players were in awe at the presentation and field house.

“Brian and (assistant coach) Brad (Morrison) and this whole situation here is first class,” Stechschulte said. “It’s a privilege to come play here. The gym is gorgeous. The video board is fantastic.

“It is something we’d like to have in our gym — you know, the little salute to both programs and the history beforehand. That is cool stuff. It makes the kids want to play the game.”