Lakota West’s game on Friday at Lakota East could’ve been dubbed “The Nathan Classic,” matching as it did the Greater Miami Conference’s second- and third-leading scorers.
They didn’t disappoint. Lakota East senior Nate Johnson led both teams with 20 points while Lakota West sophomore Nathan Dudukovich scored 15 of his team-high 18 points in the second half, including 10 in the fourth quarter, to lead the Firebirds to a watershed 54-50 win.
The win snapped Lakota West’s eight-game losing streak in the intra-district series, dating back to a 43-36 win on Jan. 8, 2016. The Firebirds hadn’t won at Lakota East since Jan. 8, 2013.
“We tried not to think about it, but it was in the back of our minds,” Dudukovich said after the game. “This has to be our best game. It feels great. It means a lot.”
“It’s real satisfying,” third-year Lakota West coach Jim Leon said. “This is my first one. They’re the premier team in our league and have been for some time. I’m just happy with our effort and happy for the kids.”
Sophomore Jason Lavender had a single-game career-high 12 points by halftime and finished with 16 on 8-of-10 shooting, most of them wide-open layups as he was left open while the Thunderhawks focused on Dudukovich. Senior guard Kelvin Turner added 13 for a Firebirds’ team that shot 55.6 percent (20-of-36) from the field. Senior forward Brady Weber, who went into the game leading the GMC with an average of 10.2 rebounds per game, grabbed 10 – all on defense against a Lakota East team that went 8-for-24 on 3-pointers and shot 38 percent (19-of-50) overall.
“We’re really rebounding the ball,” Leon said. “We’ve got a blue-collar work ethic on the boards.”
“The key was rebounding and playing fast,” Dudukovich added. “We worked most of the week on getting the ball out.”
Sophomore guard Jack Kronauge scored 12 points – all on 3-pointers – for the Thunderhawks.
“We’re settling,” Lakota East coach Clint Adkins said. “We’re settling for jump shots. We’re not playing very intelligent or disciplined basketball right now.”
The win left Lakota West (7-4, 5-2) tied with Hamilton for second in the GMC, one game behind Fairfield going into the second of four straight road games at non-conference opponent Harrison on Tuesday. Lakota East (5-3, 4-2), winner of back-to-back outright GMC championships, is fourth, 1 1/2 games behind the Indians going into a conference game against Colerain on Saturday.
The game featured five ties and 14 lead changes, the last with 3:40 to play when Lavender scored on a layup to give Lakota West the lead for good at 46-45. Dudukovich followed 17 seconds later with a three-point play and the Firebirds went 5-for-8 on free throws in the last minute to hold off the Thunderhawks.
Johnson scored four points while Dudukovich was scoreless in a first quarter that ended with the score 10-10. The Thunderhawks opened the second quarter with an 8-0 run, but after a 30-second Lakota West timeout, the Firebirds responded with a 9-0 run on the way to a 24-20 halftime lead. Lavender sparked the run with back-to-back wide-open layups and Dudukovich followed with a 3-pointer from the left wing for his only points of the half.
“When they’re face-guarding you, you have to keep working,” he said. “You can set up other people. You have to keep playing.”
“We’re supposed to have three guys playing help-side defense, but they weren’t rotating,” Adkins said. “Like I said, we’re not playing intelligent basketball right now.”
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