SHARONVILLE — Andy Fishman didn’t want to take credit for what his players have been earning the last 22 seasons.
Fishman is the only head coach in Lakota West High School girls basketball history, so every program win is his win. And he picked up No. 400 on Wednesday night as the Firebirds went on the road and knocked off previously unbeaten Princeton 61-50.
“Look, the 400th win is about Lakota West history and all the amazing young ladies who have graced our uniforms and wore our uniforms with amazing pride and the families who have given them the support to do so,” said Fishman, now 400-131 since West opened its doors in the fall of 1997.
GIRLS BASKETBALL COVERAGE
BOYS BASKETBALL COVERAGE
“Four hundred is about the history and the program pride. I can’t even tell you how many girls. That’s about them.”
The Firebirds have been on a mission since taking a 53-48 loss at Fairfield on Dec. 1. West has run off 10 straight victories and risen to the top of the Greater Miami Conference, boosting its record to 12-1 overall and 8-1 in the conference.
Princeton, ranked second in this week’s Associated Press Division I state poll, fell to 13-1, 7-1.
“Honestly, I’ve got to be real about this,” Fishman said of all the hoopla surrounding No. 400. “We just came here and beat an undefeated Princeton team ranked second in the state with a whole lot of talent, and we beat them because our backs are up against the wall because of a slip-up early in the season and we want to win another league title. That’s why this game was so huge.
“Let’s move on. We have big games to play.”
Freshman Chance Gray scored a career-best 22 points and sank five 3-pointers for the sixth-ranked Firebirds, while Kailyn Dudukovich equaled her career high with 16 points. Nevaeh Dean added 12 points and seven rebounds, and Dominique Camp had nine boards and nine assists.
“We got exactly what we expected,” said West senior guard Jaydis Gales, who contributed four points, two rebounds and two steals. “We just had to push through and play smart basketball. We can’t just depend on being athletic to win games. We had to remind ourselves to be patient and keep the game under control in our hands.”
She said the Fairfield loss is a constant reminder that the Firebirds can’t let their guard down.
“It motivates us to play better and keep pushing to make sure it never happens again,” Gales said. “I think we definitely have a chance of winning state this year.”
West took the lead for good midway through the first quarter and fought off the Vikings after they narrowed the margin to four on three occasions in the final five minutes.
“I really think it’s kind of an honor,” Dudukovich, a sophomore wing, said of the historic evening. “Given the opportunity to represent Lakota West and Andy Fishman — it means a lot for me to contribute to this big milestone.”
She said Fishman spoke with pride about the program’s success when he met with the players after the game.
“He’s one of the most humble people I know,” Dudukovich said. “He was talking about how it’s not all about him. It’s about the program as a whole and what we contribute to it and how we’ve been working towards this since we were little kids.”
The Firebirds had good ball movement all night, and that led to a lot of short-range offensive opportunities.
Gray handled most of the long-range work by sinking 5-of-11 bombs from beyond the arc, and she had the confidence to shrug off some misses and score eight points in the fourth period. Fishman wasn’t surprised.
“There’s some girls that we’ve had at Lakota West who’ve been blessed with some really good 3-point shooting skills and the work ethic to put it over the top,” he said. “That’s part of their role. They’re supposed to do that. It’s selfish when you don’t take those open shots when we’re trying to set you up for them. We try to get kids out of their own head and into the confidence way of thinking.”
Gray and Dudukovich combined for all but three of West’s 18 points in the last quarter.
“They’re a really good team,” Dudukovich said. “I think they’re really athletic and we’re athletic. I think it just came down to how we’ve been grinding in practice and continuing to improve on our skills. I think that’s what really made the difference for us.”
Willow White fired in 21 points and four treys for the Vikings, and Ashley Davis totaled 11 points. Madison Roshelle added eight points and 10 rebounds, while 6-foot-5 freshman Kyla Oldacre collected six points, seven rebounds, five blocks and three assists.
“They never quit. Princeton came at us with everything they’ve got and made a lot of big shots,” Fishman said. “Some of those 3s were just highlight-reel 3s for them — and with hands in their face. I can’t discredit our defense. That’s just really good offense.”
Princeton coach Jill Phillips declined to comment after the game.
“Princeton’s really good,” Fishman said. “I’ve got to give Coach Phillips credit for having her team prepared to play. I thought their game plan was really good, mixing up zone, box-and-one, going to a man, throwing the diamond at us … give them credit for all they did. Our kids deserve a whole lot of credit too for finding a way to make big plays.
“I thought our team offense was fantastic, even better than our transition offense against their zone and their hybrid when they were chasing Chance. If you move the ball and you’re patient, there are going to be openings in zones. That’s why zones are not played 100 percent of the time against good teams. Good teams will find a way to share the basketball and get easy shots against zones.”
West will head to Berlin for the Classic in the Country Challenge this weekend. Fishman said the Firebirds’ original schedule has changed — they’ll now face Solon on Saturday at 2:15 p.m. and Hamilton Heights (Tenn.) on Sunday at 3:20 p.m.
The Vikings will host Hamilton on Saturday afternoon.
Lakota West 19-10-14-18—61
LAKOTA WEST (12-1, 8-1 GMC): Jaydis Gales 2 0 4; Bryana Henderson 0 1 1; Chance Gray 6 5 22; Kailyn Dudukovich 6 3 16; Nevaeh Dean 5 2 12; Dominique Camp 1 0 2; Kylie Zurlinden 2 0 4. Totals: 22-11-61
PRINCETON (13-1, 7-1 GMC): Willow White 7 3 21; Jacquelyn Hinesmon 0 2 2; Ashley Davis 5 0 11; Kyla Oldacre 2 2 6; Madison Rochelle 3 2 8; Ashley Thomas 1 0 2. Totals: 18-9-50
3-pointers: L 6 (Gray 5, Dudukovich), P 5 (White 4, Davis)
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