LIBERTY TWP. — Emma Fohl felt like things were a little too close for comfort on Wednesday night.
Fohl knocked down back-to-back 3-pointers to help jumpstart a 22-3 run in the second half, senior Madison French did work as usual with a game-high 17 points and the No. 3-ranked Lakota East High School girls basketball team pulled away from rival Lakota West for a 60-39 Greater Miami Conference victory.
“I knew that we needed some momentum after halftime,” said Fohl, a junior point guard who finished with 14 points and four rebounds. “I just came out as hard as I could. … When we have fun, we play really well as a team.”
The Thunderhawks (17-1, 12-0 GMC) beat the Firebirds earlier this season, 62-44, on Jan. 4 and have now won 16 straight. Lakota East, which has won three in a row against its rival,sits a half-game ahead of top-ranked Mason atop the conference standings.
Lakota West, which has lost four out of its last five, was without leading scorer and freshman Katie Fox due to a minor injury.
Freshmen Jayda Neilson and Caroline Bayliff stepped things up and each scored a team-high 10 points to pace the Firebirds (11-8, 8-5 GMC), who hung with the conference’s best for the first 16 minutes.
“I think our girls were really prepared to play,” Lakota West coach Andy Fishman said. “I feel like we executed very well considering we knew we were going to get pressed the whole game. I thought we did a good job of taking care of the ball. We still were able to run our offensive sets that we wanted to run. I thought we made some plays on defense, and we were right there with them.”
The game saw four ties in the first nine minutes of action. Lakota West senior Anna Wells came off the bench and scored nine points — all 3-point buckets, including one that knotted things up at 15-15 with 6:20 left in the second quarter.
The Firebirds fired 5 of 7 (71.4%) from behind the arc in the first half to keep it close.
“They came out in the first half and shot 70 percent from 3,” Thunderhawks coach Dan Wallace said. “You’re going to be in any basketball game if you’re shooting 70 percent from 3 with as many as they take.”
Lakota East went on a 9-0 run early in the second quarter, and Lakota West matched it with an 8-0 run of its own to cut into the Thunderhawk advantage at 24-23 on a Neilson basket at the one-minute mark before halftime.
“We talked a lot about getting into two players and passing the basketball and making sure that we’re moving the ball at all times,” Wallace said. “I really felt like we did a good job of that in the first half, but some shots just rattled out.”
Lakota East senior Savannah Smith stuck back an offensive rebound to send the hosts into the locker room on top 26-23. Smith had 13 points.
Sophomore Katlyn Pham’s 3-pointer and Fohl’s back-to-back treys sparked the 22-3 scoring spree midway through the third quarter that put the game away.
“They were better than us. It’s as simple as that,” Fishman said. “Dan does a great job of coaching them. I give them a whole lot of credit. We played hard, and they played hard. Ultimately, their talent won out.”
Wallace said he’s pleased to see his Thunderhawks have settled into their individual responsibilities as they head into a tough four-game stretch of conference games to close out the season. East still has to host Hamilton and visit Sycamore, Princeton and Mason in a fight for its first-ever GMC title.
“Everybody just owns their role,” Wallace said. “Celina (Blount) is a defensive player and shot blocker, but she can go out there and score some points. Emma is a point guard, and she knows it. People have their role, and today especially with the defense that we played, they had to play a role. Whatever we ask of them to do, they’re buying in.
“It’s ownership of their individual role that is preached, but it isn’t always bought into all the time,” Wallace added. “Not with these girls. They have bought into it. It just becomes beautiful.”
Blount, a junior forward, made her presence felt inside the paint by contributing four points, four rebounds and two blocked shots.
“I’ve always felt like I’ve been able to contribute as much as I can when my team is on the court with me,” Blount said. “But tonight just felt different — it’s a rivalry game. With my teammates hyped, it got me hyped. And I just give it everything I could.”
Despite Lakota West going 0 for 2 from the free line and losing the turnover battle 20-12, Fishman said he was pleased to see his Firebirds battle all four quarters.
Fishman said the contributions from Bayliff, Neilson and freshman Sydney Williams (eight points) stood out the most on Wednesday.
“Our kids fought,” Fishman said. “Our kids fought until the bitter end. I’m walking out of here a proud coach.”
Both teams get back to action on Saturday. Lakota East travels to Sycamore, while Lakota West visits Hamilton.
About the Author