WEST CHESTER TWP. — Clint Adkins wandered over to the Lakota West High School scorer’s table wondering out loud if anybody had discovered any other Greater Miami Conference boys basketball finals.
His Lakota East Thunderhawks already had taken care of their business. Senior Bash Wieland led four Thunderhawks in double figures with 20 points as East came from behind and pulled away for a 71-61 win over the Firebirds that clinched at least a share of the GMC championship and extended to six East’s winning streak in the inter-district series.
Senior Will Johnston scored 18 points, junior Kaden Fuhrmann finished with 15 and senior Grant Spicer added 11 for East (15-5, 13-1), which maintained at least a two-game lead over both Mason and Oak Hills with two regular-season games to play.
One more win, either at Hamilton on Tuesday or at home against Sycamore next Friday, and the Thunderhawks clinch their second outright title in program history and first since the 2010-2011 season.
“It’s awesome,” Adkins said. “I don’t want to share. I don’t share well.”
Wieland logged a double-double by hauling in 12 rebounds, leading a Thunderhawks board effort that left them with a 30-19 advantage. They grabbed one more defensive rebound than West’s total. Wieland also went 10-of-11 on free throws while East sinking 22-of-28. They made twice as many free throws as West attempted.
“I’ve been a part of a GMC championship before,” Wieland said. “It feels great. We’ve got a lot of work to do.”
“We lead the league in field-goal percentage, 3-point percentage, free-throw percentage and assists,” Adkins pointed out. “That’s pretty efficient.”
While Adkins was starting three seniors, a junior and a sophomore, West coach Jim Leon deployed a starting lineup of one junior and four sophomores. Junior guard Carter Combs went 4-of-6 on 3-pointers on his way to a team-high 18 points — 11 in the first half. Senior guard Matt DeSalvo came off the bench to score 11 for the Firebirds.
West (5-15, 2-12) scored only 35 points while losing by 31 to East on Dec. 14 — the Thunderhawks’ biggest win of the season and the Firebirds’ biggest loss. West almost matched that total by halftime of Friday’s rematch, leading by as many as six points before taking a 32-30 lead into the locker room.
“That first time, the freshman game went three overtimes, and the junior varsity game went four overtimes,” Leon recalled. “We have a young team. It’s a full house. They got a little antsy. We weren’t ready to play, and they hit us early. Tonight, we hit some shots early and got a little confidence.”
Leon also pointed out that the Thunderhawks were without injured 6-foot-6 junior Alex Mangold, who scored 13 points in that first half. Mangold has missed the last eight games.
East took control with a 15-3 third-quarter run started by a Spicer leaner and followed by Fuhrmann and Johnston 3-pointers. Spicer sank two free throws, Wieland converted a traditional three-point play and Johnston capped the run with driving layup.
“In the first half, we played pitiful defense,” Wieland said. “We know we have to do better if we’re going to make a tournament run.”
“We were a little stagnant in the first half,” Adkins said. “We were only 3-for-13 on 3s in the first half. We might be getting a little tired, too. Playing only six or seven guys, we might be getting a little leg-weary.”
Lakota East 17-13-25-16—71
Lakota West 13-19-13-16—61
LAKOTA EAST (15-5, 13-1 GMC): Nick Holtman 2 0 4; Kaden Fuhrmann 5 2 15; Bash Wieland 5 10 20; Will Johnston 6 2 18; Grant Spicer 3 5 11; Nate Johnson 0 3 3. Totals: 21-22-71
LAKOTA WEST (5-15, 2-12 GMC): Silas Walters 0 1 1; Kelvin Turner 2 2 8; Charlie Massa 4 0 9; Matt DeSalvo 3 3 11; Carter Combs 7 0 18; Osean Anuforo 1 0 2; Matt Oehler 4 0 8; Brady Weber 1 2 4. Totals: 22-8-61
3-pointers: LE 7 (Johnston 4, Fuhrmann 3), LW 9 (Combs 4, Turner 2, DeSalvo 2, Massa)