Prep basketball: West builds halftime lead, fights off Middletown

WEST CHESTER TWP. — Lakota West High School’s boys basketball team was looking for a bounce-back win Tuesday night after dropping its Greater Miami Conference opener to Oak Hills.

The Firebirds found that victory by using a hot shooting first half and fending off pressure defense and turnovers to come away with a 64-56 triumph over visiting Middletown.

The hosts were 8-of-16 from behind the arc and capitalized on 11 Middie turnovers in the first half, and those things propelled them to a 35-23 lead at the break. Four different West players hit 3-pointers in the first half, including five from the starting backcourt of Kelvin Turner and Matt DeSalvo.

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“We came out in the first half and were making shots, which we haven’t been doing so far, and that built our confidence heading into halftime with a nice lead,” Firebirds coach Jim Leon said. “Middletown is a quality opponent who is coming off a big win against Hamilton, which I think is also good.”

The Middies (3-2 overall, 1-1 in the GMC) showed heart and hustle in the second half and scored the first six points in the third quarter. Pressure defense and turnovers fueled the quick start. Middletown’s defense forced West into 21 turnovers, most of which were in its comeback effort in the second half.

The Firebirds (2-1, 1-1) calmed down and connected on a couple more shots from behind the arc to regain their 12-point lead.

“We knew we were going to take Middletown’s best punch coming out in the second half, and we made our foul shots,” Leon said. “We are a fairly new team with only four returning players from last year, so we need to keep growing every day.”

West was clutch from the charity stripe in the second half, going 13-of-19. Turner (13), Carter Combs (12), Silas Walters (10) and Matt Oehler (10) topped the Firebirds’ scoring.

“Our plan coming in was to play good defense and shut off their drives to the basket and make them shoot jump shots,” said Combs, a junior guard. “My outside shots weren’t falling tonight, so I drove the ball to the rim. Towards the end we just needed to be smart and go to the free-throw line, where we made them. We just need to keep working every day to keep this thing going.”

Middletown was led by Aaron Jones (18 points, 14 rebounds) and KeiAunte Powell (13 points).

“I thought tonight was a great opportunity for us to come in here and get one,” Middies coach Darnell Hoskins said. “I told the guys before the game that this will test our level of maturity, and I didn’t do a good enough job preparing them hard enough for the rigors of getting a win on the road. You can’t afford to give someone a 14- or 16-point cushion and expect to win basketball games.”

Both teams will be on the road Friday, West at Lakota East and Middletown at Princeton.

Middletown 10-13-13-20—56

Lakota West 17-18-13-16—64

MIDDLETOWN (3-2, 1-1 GMC): Shandon Morris 3 0 6; KeiAunte Powell 3 6 13; Aaron Jones 7 3 18; Rob Thompson 0 1 1; Chance Walker 4 1 9; Johrdon Mumford 2 0 4; Chris Stallworth 1 3 5. Totals: 20-14-56

LAKOTA WEST (2-1, 1-1 GMC): Silas Walters 3 2 10; Kelvin Turner 5 0 13; Matt DeSalvo 2 2 8; Carter Combs 3 5 12; Osean Anuforo 1 0 2; Matt Oehler 3 2 10; Brady Weber 2 3 7; Shane Gladysz 1 0 2. Totals: 20-14-64

3-pointers: M 2 (Powell, Jones), L 10 (Turner 3, Walters 2, DeSalvo 2, Oehler 2, Combs)

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