The scoreboard hasn’t been kind to Lakota West High School’s boys basketball team this year. That doesn’t mean the Firebirds are ready to turn in their uniforms.
West showed some scrap Tuesday night at St. Xavier’s Berning Gym, keeping the score respectable when it could’ve gotten ugly in a 62-47 victory for the Bombers.
“That’s how this team is,” said senior guard Mitch Wagner, who had 9 points and seven rebounds for the Firebirds. “Everyone’s out there scratching. No one gives up. We’ve just got to execute better.”
Sophomore guard Jared McCorkle collected a career-high 15 points, six boards and three steals for West, which fell to 3-9 and has lost six of its last seven games.
The Firebirds were down 34-18 at halftime and trailed by as many as 24 points in the third quarter.
“We won the second half point-wise. There was no caving in or quitting,” West coach Matt Rooks said. “I love our guys’ toughness. We’ve still got a lot of games left. They keep coming to battle, and that’s what it’s about.”
St. X (9-4) put up 23 points off 15 LWHS turnovers and converted 20 of 30 free throws while shooting 50 percent from the floor. The Firebirds hit just 33.3 percent of their field goals.
“That’s 43 points out of their 62 that we don’t guard, so to me, that’s the game,” Rooks said. “I thought they hurt us on the glass with their size, and their zone slowed us down. They’re big and long and made life hard on us.”
The Bombers won with balance. Nathan Stockman scored 10 points, Chase Wolf and R.J. Fredenburgh both tallied 9, and Brandon Gilbert added 8. Stockman chipped in seven boards.
Third-year St. X coach Jim Lallathin said it wasn’t a great performance by his crew, but it was a positive evening heading into Friday’s Greater Catholic League South Division home game against Elder.
“Our goal each day is to get a little bit better, and I thought we did that,” Lallathin said. “There’s definitely some things we’ve got to clean up getting back into GCL play on Friday, but I like our guys’ effort. I enjoy coaching these guys every day.”
He has a special place in his heart for West, and that’s not surprising. Lallathin coached and taught there, and he was part of Lakota High School’s last graduating class in 1997. Lakota split into West and East in the fall of ’97.
“You can’t say it’s just another game because that’s my home,” Lallathin said. “That’s where I grew up. That’s where my brothers went to school and my mom taught. Lakota West has always been a home and always will be a home. I root for them every night except for the night they play the Bombers.”
He endured difficult seasons in his first two years at the Bomber helm, going 14-32. But St. X looks to be on a winning path this year and has already equaled last season’s win total.
“We’re feeling good,” Lallathin said. “The guys that came before them, the two years we were struggling to get wins, they put a great foundation together for these guys. And these guys are just continuing to build upon what they brought.”
The Firebirds will return to Greater Miami Conference play Friday at Lakota East.
“I told our guys before this week that we were like 10 possessions away from having a different record. We let some games slip away at the end,” Rooks said. “We have a young team and not much experience, so they’ve got to keep learning as we go. Not only for the rest of this year, but for next year.”
“Everything is preparation for the tournament,” Wagner said. “Obviously the numbers haven’t been too good this year, but everyone’s hungry and ready to play every night. We’re keeping our heads up.”
Lakota West 9-9-19-10—47
St. Xavier 18-16-19-9—62
LAKOTA WEST (3-9): Je’seus Harris 2 0 4, Matthew Oehler 2 0 5, Carter Combs 1 1 4, Daved Jones Jr. 2 0 4, Charlie Massa 2 0 5, Bradley Groth 0 1 1, Jared McCorkle 4 4 15, Mitch Wagner 3 2 9. Totals: 16-8-47
ST. XAVIER (9-4): Nathan Stockman 3 4 10, Andrew Wittrock 0 1 1, Brandon Gilbert 2 4 8, Chase Wolf 3 0 9, R.J. Fredenburgh 4 1 9, Nate Gleckler 1 2 4, Nick Frank 0 3 3, Danny Greive 1 2 5, Hank Thomas 1 0 2, Luke Pellot 2 2 6, Bobby Jefferson 2 1 5. Totals: 19-20-62
3-pointers: L 7 (McCorkle 3, Massa, Oehler, Wagner, Combs), S 4 (Wolf 3, Greive)