Turner, Dudukovich lead Lakota West past Middletown

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Jim Leon says his Lakota West boys basketball team doesn’t mind playing fast, but not at the speed with which Middletown was trying to generate on Friday.

So the Firebirds coach resorted to a tactic he usually avoids. He switched his defense from man-to-man to zone in the second quarter. That helped them shift to a more comfortable gear and allowed them to hold off the Middies for a 75-65 Greater Miami Conference win at Lakota West

“I don’t like playing zone,” Leon said. “I really don’t, but there were a couple of things. One, we like playing fast, but they were on an extra gear. Two, I had a hunch they wouldn’t shoot that well from the outside.”

Middletown (0-2), playing just its second game of the season and first since losing to St. Xavier on December, finished 3-of-18 on 3-point shots. Some of that might’ve been attributable to the Middies being off for 14 days due to COVID-19 issues. They practiced for 1-1/2 hours on Thursday, coach Darnell Hoskins said.

“It’s hard to establish continuity,” Hoskins said. “We like to pressure the ball for 32 minutes and wear you down. There’s no question the pace obviously affected them. He made a great decision. It allowed them to sit back and catch their breath. I think we got a little passive against the zone.”

Senior guard Kelvin Turner and sophomore forward Nathan Dudukovich each scored 23 points for the Firebirds, who never trailed after sophomore guard Trent Lloyd gave them a 32-31 lead by scoring on a leaner with 4:15 left before halftime. Senior forward Brady Weber just missed a double-double with 15 points, going 7-of-8 from the field, and nine rebounds.

Hoskins was disappointed that his more veteran team wasn’t able to maintain pressure on Lakota West in the Middies’ first GMC game since winning at Princeton on Valentine’s Day. His post-game message to his team was to not waste opportunities.

“If there’s one thing the pandemic has taught us, it’s to value opportunities,” he said. “That’s what we communicated to the guys. You have to value and cherish opportunities. You never know when it’s going to be taken away.”

Weber and Dudukovich played the entire game, helping Lakota West (3-1) fend off Middletown’s numerous comeback efforts.

“Resilient,” team captain Weber said. “You’re going to make mistakes. It’s about how you bounce back from them.”

Three of Lakota West’s five starters and four of the six players who scored are sophomores, which makes Leon appreciate Turner and Weber.

“Brady’s been a great senior leader,” Leon said. “Turner did a great job going to the basket.”

Three players each finished with 13 points for Middies – junior forward Will Will9ams and senior guards Rob Thompson IV and Johrdon Mumford. Senior forward Jonathon Risheberger also reached double figures with 10 points.

The Firebirds have a chance to get off to their best start since going 4-0 to start the 2013-2014 season when they face Elder in a non-conference game scheduled for Saturday night at Lakota West. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

Middletown, 0-2 for the first time since the 2012-2013 season, is scheduled to play at Fairfield in the second of three consecutive road games.

The teams combined for a frenetic first half that featured nine lead changes and four ties. The Firebirds led by as many as eight points, 17-9, with 2:21 left in the first quarter before the Middies strung together 10-2 run that led to a 21-19 lead with 7:25 left in the first half.

Dudukovich, who was averaging 22 points per game, had 17 by halftime. Turner also was in double figures with 10.

Weber paced the Firebirds with eight points in the third quarter to help them lead by as many as nine, 54-45, with 1:27 left in the quarter.

They were able to pull away and lead by as many as 11 points, 71-60, with 1:10 left in the game.

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