MASON — Will Johnston is playing as if he’s trying to make up for lost time.
The timing couldn’t be better for Lakota East High School’s boys basketball team.
After scoring a total of 39 points in his first eight games and missing three with mononucleosis, the 6-foot-1 senior guard erupted for a career-high 27 in East’s 56-34 win over Oak Hills on Tuesday and followed up by scoring a game-high 21 — 18 in the second half — as the Thunderhawks walloped host Mason 61-44 on Friday.
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The back-to-back decisive wins over Greater Miami Conference contenders East (10-3, 8-1) in sole possession of first place. They’re even more impressive considering the Thunderhawks lost 6-7 junior Alex Mangold to a broken leg early in the win over the Highlanders.
“We haven’t won here since 2012,” East coach Clint Adkins said. “This place is really, really difficult to come in and win. With the adversity these kids have faced this week, I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
Senior guard Bash Wieland added 18 points for the Thunderhawks, 12 in the second half, which started with Johnston sinking three 3-pointers and scoring 12 points as they broke the game open with a 25-10 third quarter. He opened the fourth period with his fourth 3-pointer of the half to give them their largest lead (49-25).
“I give credit to my coaches,” said Johnston, whose single-game high before this week was 10 points. “They told me to stay confident and keep shooting, and I give credit to my teammates for finding me for open looks.”
“We know he’s a phenomenal shooter,” Adkins said. “He’s not going to score 28 a game, but we know he can be an awesome scorer for us.”
Mason (11-2, 7-2), which went into the game ranked eighth in the Associated Press Division I state poll, had won three straight going into the game.
“We weren’t ready,” Comets coach Greg Richards said. “I don’t know how you can’t be ready for a game like this. They won every aspect of the game. We were outworked and outfought. They came in with a great game plan and played extremely well. We didn’t execute very well. Part of that was them taking things away from us.”
East focused on prying Mason out of its flex offense and limited its leading scorer, senior guard Landen Long, to 11 points. Senior guard Ethan Howard added 10.
“It started with our defense,” Adkins said. “Then once our offense settled down, we started getting good looks.”
“We knew this was going to be a hard opponent,” Johnston said. “We’ve had a really good week of practice.”
The road doesn’t get easier for East, which is scheduled to face top-ranked Moeller on Sunday night in the inaugural Midwest King Classic at Middletown, though inclement weather may change that plan.
Mason travels to Hamilton next Friday.
Lakota East 12-9-25-15—61
LAKOTA EAST (10-3, 8-1 GMC): Nick Holtman 2 0 4; Stephen McKay 0 1 1; Kaden Fuhrmann 3 0 7; Bash Wieland 5 8 18; Trevor Howard 1 0 3; Will Johnston 6 4 21; Grant Spicer 1 3 5; Nate Johnson 0 2 2. Totals: 18-18-61
MASON (11-2, 7-2 GMC): Jack Franke 1 0 2; Landen Long 4 1 11; Ethan Howard 4 0 10; Matt Minick 2 1 5; Mitchell Greer 1 0 2; Matthew Smith 1 3 5; Alec Dardis 1 1 3; Matt Wirth 1 0 3; Ben Stuart 1 1 3. Totals: 16-7-44
3-pointers: LE 7 (Johnston 5, Fuhrmann, Howard), M 5 (Long 2, Howard 2, Wirth)
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