MIDDLETOWN — Lakota East High School’s boys basketball team was already wearing the bull’s-eye for being voted first in the Greater Miami Conference preseason coaches poll.
Now it’s just gotten a little brighter.
The visiting Thunderhawks handled Middletown 61-47 at Wade E. Miller Arena on Tuesday night and left town in sole possession of first place in the GMC when Mason defeated Princeton 49-40.
TUESDAY NIGHT BASKETBALL COVERAGE
“There’s a lot of basketball to be played,” East coach Clint Adkins said after his crew improved to 8-2 overall and 6-0 in the conference. “Hamilton was my preseason No. 1 team based on what they had coming back, and our next four league games are against Hamilton, Oak Hills, Mason and Princeton. So we’re going to find out how good we are.
“I do feel like we’ve made small improvements every single week. If you would’ve watched us Week 1, you would’ve said we weren’t very good, and I would’ve said we weren’t very good. We’ve just got to keep grinding away. Our goal is to be playing our best basketball in February and March, and we’re moving in that trajectory.”
Mason, Oak Hills and Princeton are all 5-1 in GMC play, and Hamilton is 3-3. HHS will head to Liberty Township to face the Thunderhawks on Friday night.
Senior guard Bash Wieland led the way against Middletown with 22 points (18 in the first half), four assists and three rebounds. He was asked for his opinion on how good East can be.
“I couldn’t tell you,” Wieland said. “We’re trying to be together and win as a team. We’re really pushing each other every day to get better. Coach Adkins always does a great job of getting us prepared, so let’s just see where that takes us.”
The Thunderhawks didn’t have much trouble securing the win against the Middies (5-5, 2-4). East never trailed and led 34-15 at halftime, shooting 59.1 percent from the field (while Middletown shot 27.8 percent).
The margin grew to 53-27 early in the fourth quarter before the Middies rallied to make the final tally a bit more respectable.
“That’s a mark that our program is maturing a little bit,” Middletown coach Darnell Hoskins said. “Last year we probably would’ve folded the tent when we got down 26, but I think there’s a different mental disposition that’s finally developing. I was proud of the way they finished the second half, so we’ll build on that.”
The Middies got carved up pretty thoroughly in the first half. Middletown had no real answer for the Thunderhawks’ crisp passing, high field-goal percentage and defensive tenacity.
“That’s an extremely well-coached basketball team we played against,” Hoskins said. “I always give credit where credit is due, and Clint does an amazing job with his guys. They were bigger, they were more physical, they were very efficient, and they didn’t allow our pressure to really bother them.
“They play basketball the way the game is intended to be played. The Bash Wieland kid is really underrated in my opinion. He has a really high IQ for the game, he uses his body really well, and his teammates look for him.
“No excuses coming from this way — we just didn’t get it done. You take education away from games like this and you vow to be better, and we’ll be better the next time out because of this. We’ve all got to do a better job with what we’re trying to do. I’ve got to teach it better, our guys have got to absorb it better.”
Aaron Jones had 11 of his 13 points in the second half for the Middies, while Johrdon Mumford scored 11 and Kei’Aunte Powell added 10. Middletown shot 66.7 percent from the field after halftime to finish at 48.7 — East was an even 22-of-44 from the floor and 8-of-16 from beyond the arc for the game.
Adkins said his team hasn’t been great from the 3-point line this season, so Tuesday’s success was a welcome thing. He wasn’t thrilled to watch his team get outscored 20-8 over the final six-plus minutes.
“Even though we were up big, you still try to deliver the message that every possession counts,” Adkins said. “I thought we got real loosey-goosey with the ball and gave up some turnovers for touchdowns. It’s a learning thing. When you have teams down like that, you don’t ever want to give them any hope.”
Kaden Fuhrmann (13), Alex Mangold (10) and Will Johnston (eight) were among East’s top scorers. Mangold grabbed a game-high seven rebounds.
“It’s really hard winning on the road in the GMC,” said Wieland, a Bellarmine University recruit. “We just tried to play our game. We felt if we executed and played hard, we would win this game.”
Middletown travels to Sycamore on Friday.
Lakota East 15-19-11-16—61
LAKOTA EAST (8-2, 6-0 GMC): Alex Mangold 4 0 10; Bash Wieland 8 4 22; Will Johnston 3 1 8; Grant Spicer 0 2 2; Nate Johnson 2 0 4; Nick Holtman 0 2 2; Kaden Fuhrmann 5 0 13. Totals: 22-9-61
MIDDLETOWN (5-5, 2-4 GMC): Kei’Aunte Powell 4 2 10; Aaron Jones 6 0 13; Rob Thompson 2 0 5; Johrdon Mumford 5 1 11; Chris Stallworth 0 2 2; Chance Walker 2 2 6. Totals: 19-7-47
3-pointers: L 8 (Fuhrmann 3, Mangold 2, Wieland 2, Johnston), M 2 (Jones, Thompson)
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