Lakota East High School’s boys basketball team has reached midseason with a bit of a flourish.
The Thunderhawks won for the fourth time in five games Tuesday night by handling Middletown 55-39, boosting their record to 6-5 overall and 4-2 in the Greater Miami Conference.
“And we’ve lost to some very good teams,” said East coach Clint Adkins, mentioning a 2-2 holiday trip to the Arby’s Classic in Bristol, Tenn. “I love this team. They practice hard. They share the basketball. We could very easily be 8-3, 9-2. We’ve just had to learn how to close out some games.”
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Junior Bash Wieland, a transfer from Lakota West, said the Thunderhawks are determined to make some Division I postseason noise.
“We’ve got to make a big tournament run,” Wieland said. “We’ve got the guys. Our culture’s good. We’re all together. I would say that nobody wants to play us going into the tournament.”
Wieland had 17 points/three 3-pointers and Jarrett Cox scored 13 points in Tuesday’s conquest of the visiting Middies, who slipped to 2-9, 1-6, with their sixth straight loss.
Middletown held a 5-0 advantage in the opening five minutes, then gave up 10 consecutive points and never led again.
“It was a little bit ugly, but give credit to Middletown. They made the game ugly,” Adkins said. “They’re very long in their 1-3-1 zone, and I felt like we didn’t really come out and attack it in the first half.
“We made a minor adjustment in terms of where we put Jarrett on the floor in the second half, and it ended up being really beneficial for us. I thought we got the ball moving a lot better, and it led to some wide-open looks.”
The Middies’ zone has plenty of size, especially with 6-foot-10, 315-pound E.J. Williams returning to Middletown. He’s played in the last three games.
East responded to the zone by shooting 56.3 percent from 3-point range (9 of 16) and 52.5 percent overall.
“We just knew we had to move (the ball) more,” Wieland said. “We were kind of stagnant to start, so we just kind of figured it out as we went. I would say that they’re better than what their record says.”
Said Adkins, “We’re not used to playing against a bunch of post guys. The game today is not post-oriented. It’s all about spread, beat you off the dribble, catch-and-shoot 3s.”
Williams paced the Middies with 14 points and four rebounds, and Broderick McGhee added 8 points.
Middletown coach Darnell Hoskins lamented his team’s turnovers (15) and free-throw shooting (8 of 21). He also felt the Middies weren’t as good as they needed to be getting back in transition to set up their zone.
“When you hold a team to 55 points, you’re in a position to win if you don’t turn the ball over and make free throws and convert point-blank attempts,” Hoskins said. “I didn’t think they could guard us inside, and as the game started, we were getting the opportunities we wanted in the paint. We just weren’t finishing. Then we went to the line and missed them.
“We’re tripling everybody up going to the free-throw line every night. To me, that’s a sign of good basketball. But when you get there, you’ve got to make them. We have to shorten the game, limit the possessions. If the game is slow, methodically tic for tac, it’s advantage us all day.”
Middletown had 10 turnovers and took a 22-14 deficit into halftime. The visitors wouldn’t be closer than 8 the rest of the night.
“Our Achilles heel all year long has been our ballhandling or lack thereof,” Hoskins said. “We just don’t have much experience at that position, and it’s rearing its ugly head at the wrong time. The good thing is we’ve got another half a season to groom them. We still have time to figure it out.”
Will Johnston totaled 9 points on three treys in the first half, helping keep East in the lead while its offense was in a less-potent stage. Cox had five boards, six assists and three steals.
Wieland collected 8 points and a pair of 3-balls in the third period. He’s the Thunderhawks’ No. 2 scorer behind Cox this year.
“Bash has come in and really fit in from a personality standpoint,” Adkins said. “He’s really bought into what we’re doing. He’s an absolute pleasure to coach.”
Asked about his transfer, Wieland said he’s got nothing against West. He just felt East was a better fit for him.
“I love it so far,” Wieland said. “Everybody made me feel welcome, and I love the coaches. It’s a great culture.”
The Thunderhawks will travel to Fairfield on Friday, while the Middies visit Hamilton.
Lakota East 12-10-15-18—55
MIDDLETOWN (2-9, 1-6 GMC): Jawunn Bailey 1 3 5, E.J. Williams 6 2 14, Chris Stallworth 2 0 4, Blake Marshall 1 0 2, Broderick McGhee 3 0 8, Aaron Jones 1 2 5, Shandon Morris 0 1 1. Totals: 14-8-39
LAKOTA EAST (6-5, 4-2 GMC): Jackson See 2 0 6, Alex Mangold 1 0 2, Bash Wieland 7 0 17, Jarrett Cox 6 0 13, Nate Johnson 1 0 2, Corie Blount 0 2 2, Isaiah Flood 0 2 2, Will Johnston 3 0 9, Kyrell Metts 1 0 2. Totals: 21-4-55
3-pointers: M 3 (McGhee 2, Jones), L 9 (Wieland 3, Johnston 3, See 2, Cox)
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