LIBERTY TWP. — A combined 1,106 Ohio high school girls basketball coaching victories met on Wednesday night at Lakota East in the first round of the Division I sectional tournament.
Lakota West’s Andy Fishman, who picked up career win No. 400 on Jan. 16 at Princeton, brought 408 wins to the game. Talawanda’s Mary Jo Huismann went in with 698, two shy of becoming the third coach in Ohio history to reach 700, but she knew going in that her chances of reaching the illustrious level this season were slim.
“I told people at the start that it might take a couple of years,” the former long-time Mother of Mercy coach said of her first season at Talawanda. “I figured it might take a while.”
Fishman’s second-seeded Firebirds, the Greater Miami Conference champions who were also ranked third in the latest Associated Press state poll, needed little time to take control of the game and left with an 85-19 win over the 31st-seeded Brave.
Freshman guard Chance Gray tied her season high with six 3-pointers on her way to a season-best 24 points. Senior forward Jessica Clark came off the bench to score 11 points and junior forward Nevaeh Dean added 10 for the Firebirds, who were 13-of-21 (61.9 percent) on 3-pointers and 33-of-52 (63.5 percent) from the field while forcing 24 turnovers.
“What we wanted to do was play good position defense and work on keeping people in front of us and work on some things,” Fishman said. “I thought Talawanda did a good job advancing the ball against our pressure. As a team, we shot the ball very well from 3-point range. We created some situations for Chance, which is what we always look to do. For her, a 3-point shot is like another kid’s layup.”
West (21-2), which lost by three to Mason in last season’s regional championship game, will take an eight-game win streak into a second-round matchup with 29th-seeded Withrow (6-16) on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. at East. The Tigers, who play in the Eastern Cincinnati Conference, have a first-round bye.
Junior forward Sophie Pohlabel scored 12 points to lead Talawanda, a Southwest Ohio Conference program Huismann is trying to improve by installing better coaches at the lower levels and getting more girls involved for a longer period of time, but she knows it’s going to take a while to change the culture.
“When I first came up here in June, none of the girls were used to doing anything in June,” said Huismann, who resumes her pursuit of the 700-win level next season. “They wouldn’t do anything from today until next October. We’ve got 11 kids coming in next year. At Mercy, we had kids coming in from 10 (parochial) schools.”
Talawanda, which was coming off a 51-50 win over Ross in the regular-season finale, finishes 2-21. The 85 points were the most allowed by the Brave this season.
“We were showing improvement, but then we reverted so quickly,” Huismann said. “They work hard. In practice, they really try, but it doesn’t all transfer over to games.”
Sophomore forward Kailyn Dudukovich scored West’s first six points. She and Gray each scored eight in the first quarter to lead the Firebirds to a 28-7 lead in what West sports historian Bob Ashby said was the first-ever game between the two teams.
Gray, whose previous career high was 23 points, finished the first half with 19, including five 3-pointers in nine attempts.
The second half started with West leading by 38 points and was played with a running clock.
Lakota West 28-24-16-17—85
TALAWANDA (2-21): Eva Motta 0 1 1; Kyra Koontz 0 3 3; Jenna Tegge 1 0 3; Sophie Pohlabel 6 0 12. Totals: 7-4-19
LAKOTA WEST (21-2): Jaydis Gales 2 0 5; Bryana Henderson 3 0 7; Chance Gray 9 0 24; Sydney Benning 1 0 2; Amara Flores 2 0 4; Dominique Camp 2 2 6; Leah Abribat 2 0 6; Jessica Clark 4 0 11; Kailyn Dudukovich 4 0 8; Nevaeh Dean 3 4 10; Brooke Brockman 1 0 2. Totals: 33-6-85
3-pointers: T 1 (Tegge), L 13 (Gray 6, Clark 3, Abribat 2, Gales, Henderson)