Turpin game, but Firebirds claim sectional title 60-42

Call it a rarity, because the Firebirds have drubbed practically every opponent they’ve faced in the last two months.

West never trailed against Turpin in a Division I sectional championship game, but the Spartans kept it respectable in a 60-42 decision at Lakota East.

“They definitely came to play,” said Firebirds junior guard Nia Staples, who tallied 12 points and four assists. “We were prepared, but I feel as if we didn’t go out like we usually do. I don’t think we played as hard and as competitively as we usually do.

“In some of these games, it’s hard to get the blood flowing. This game definitely woke us up some more.”

Lauren Cannatelli (14), Danielle Wells (10), Arianne Whitaker (nine) and Lexi Wasan (eight) contributed to the balanced scoring for the top-seeded Firebirds, who shot 51 percent from the field and extended their winning streak to 16.

West (23-2) will head to Harrison on Saturday and face Lebanon (17-7) for a district title at 5 p.m.

“I believe we have very humble and respectful players,” Firebirds coach Andy Fishman said. “We certainly didn’t play our best game of the year, but I give Turpin credit. They were real scrappy. They played with nothing to lose.

“We’ve got to do a better job of stopping the basketball. We need to get back to making our reads and anticipating a little bit more defensively. That’s really where the adjustments need to be made. Too many times we had two players that were in negative space for what we try to do defensively.

“When we had one player in negative space, we were still really sharp. We were able to get touches. We were able to get some steals. I really feel like sometimes you can be really good and really unlucky, and we were very unlucky multiple times tonight. So we have to do a better job of creating our own luck defensively with our pressure.”

Mackenzie Campbell collected 19 points and eight boards for 10th-seeded Turpin (19-6), which committed 18 turnovers.

Spartans coach Stacy Alexander said the Firebirds are the best team her crew has faced this season.

“They’ve been doing it all year,” Alexander said. “Very talented. Very strong. Very physical. Defensively, they turn their stops into points.”

Turpin trailed 9-0 and 14-3 in the opening four minutes, but put some determination on display all night. It was a 48-34 affair after three quarters, with the Spartans unable to narrow the margin from there.

“We’ve fought in every game, and we believe,” Alexander said. “We’ve really stressed team this year, and Mackenzie Campbell is a true testament to that. She’s been an inspiration and a leader, and if she’s not scoring the points, she’s dishing it out and letting other people score. It’s been a true team effort all season.”

Caroline Welsh and Megan Christopher scored seven points apiece for the Turpin, the third-place finisher in the Eastern Cincinnati Conference. The Spartans shot 41.9 from the field and made 12 of 17 free throws (West was 3 of 3).

“They were beating us off the dribble,” Cannatelli said. “I give it to Turpin. They were attacking the rim, going for offensive rebounds. We had to work hard on defense.”

Cannatelli had five steals and converted 4 of 7 shots from 3-point range. She’s hit an incredible 54.1 percent of her treys this season.

The University of Dayton commit said playing for Fishman for nearly a decade has refined her long-range shooting.

“He’s been telling me for years to be ready to catch and shoot or he’s putting me on the bench,” Cannatelli said. “He’s kind of ingrained that in me. So I’m always putting up a lot of shots and trying to get better.”

Monday marked her 100th varsity game, the most in Lakota School District history. Amber Gray, a 2008 LWHS graduate, played in 99.

Whitaker had seven rebounds and three blocks for the Firebirds. She became West’s all-time leader in blocks (131) midway through the fourth quarter. Gray accumulated 130 blocks in four seasons — Whitaker has been a three-year varsity player.

The Firebirds have set a high bar for themselves, so the 18-point victory didn’t create much of a buzz in the gym. When told it was West’s closest game since a 55-41 triumph at Mason on Jan. 22, Fishman shook his head.

“That’s crazy. Think about it,” he said. “I feel like we were due for a close one. But I feel like we’re in a really good place when we know that we have to make certain improvements and still are pretty dominant.”

Staples suffered a knee injury in the fourth period. She was icing it as she left the gym after the game.

“I twisted it somehow,” Staples said. “I don’t think it’s serious, but if it is, I’ll definitely do some extreme physical therapy.”

The Firebirds and Spartans have met only one other time. West posted a 78-56 victory during its 2008 run to the state title game.

Turpin 13-10-11-8—42

Lakota West 19-16-13-12—60

TURPIN (19-6): Kristin Mills 2 0 4; Kaitlyn Workman 1 0 3; Megan Christopher 1 4 7; Mackenzie Campbell 5 7 19; Charlotte Kerregan 1 0 2; Caroline Welsh 3 1 7. Totals: 13-12-42.

LAKOTA WEST (23-2): Danielle Wells 5 0 10; Nia Staples 5 2 12; Lauren Cannatelli 5 0 14; Arianne Whitaker 4 1 9; Lexi Wasan 4 0 8; Sarah Jones 1 0 3; Abby Prohaska 2 0 4. Totals: 26-3-60.

3-pters: T 4 (Campbell 2, Workman, Christopher), LW 5 (Cannatelli 4, Jones)

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