CINCINNATI — The Lakota East Thunderhawks were 0-2 in their previous two trips to the regional semifinals, but on their third visit on Wednesday night against the Lasalle Lancers, they won 44-35 in the sparsely seated echo-chamber at the Cintas Center.
“Pretty special for the guys,” Lakota East coach Clint Adkins said. “Back-to-back GMC champions, and back-to-back district champions, and obviously we had never gotten past that Sweet 16 stage, and to get to the Elite 8, that’s pretty special.”
Kaden Fuhrmann scored 8 points in a penultimate third quarter that brought his Thunderhawks back from the brink of an early collapse after falling behind 20-10 with a little over three minutes to play in the second quarter.
“I think we turned it over six out of the first nine possessions. Not real efficient,” Adkins said. “I think Kaden maybe got a steal and a run out layup. Sometimes high school students just need to see that ball go through the net and once that happens it kind of opened up the flood gates”
From the middle of the second quarter until the end of the game, Fuhrmann poured in his 17 on three layups, two 3-pointers and five free throws — with four of the five free throws coming in the last minute.
“We’ll shoot free throws probably 14-21 minutes a day at practice. Every practice,” Fuhrmann said. “They play loud sounds on the speaker and we just try to focus in on knocking down these free throws.”
The Thunderhawks were 9-of-10 as a team in the fourth quarter from the free throw line — just four days after Alex Mangold toed the line against Beavercreek he went 4-4 from the line tonight. The Thunderhawks as a team shot 82-percent from the line while also shooting 62-percent from the field.
“Over the course of the tournament, the Turpin game, obviously Big Al (Alex Mangold) hitting the free throws against Beavercreek, and tonight our guys have been so clutch down the stretch,” Adkins said. “When you’re confident and you’re going up there knocking down free throws, when you defend like our guys have been defending, you like your chances to win.”
The Lancers jumped out to an 8-5 first quarter lead that ballooned to a 20-10 lead with 3:02 left in the second quarter. But a five-point swing highlighted by a Fuhrmann steal and layup cut the lead in half, and a Mangold layup as time was expiring cut the lead to three at halftime.
“My teammates did a great job getting me the ball, screening for me,” Fuhrmann said. “Nate Johnson did a great job keeping the ball controlled and I was blessed to get the shots I got. Knock them down and it was a great job by my teammates.”
To go with Fuhrmann’s 17 points and four boards, Mangold added 10 points with four rebounds. Justin Lovette led the Lancers with 11 points.
Lakota East (25-2) moves on to face the back-to-back state champion and top-ranked Moeller Crusaders on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at the Cintas Center. Moeller ended the Thunderhawks’ season a year ago.
“We’re going to scout them and watch some film tomorrow,” Fuhrmann said. “Start practicing for them, prepare for them but we’re not scared of them. They’re a really good team but we’re a really good team and we’re not going to back down from them. I can’t wait to play on Saturday.’
Moeller (26-1) hasn’t lost to a Southwest Ohio team in four years.
“Best team in the state, 75-76 wins in a row against Ohio teams. Back-to-back state champions,” Adkins said. “They’ve got five division one guys, and they’re really well-coached, they play hard, everything you’d want in a team.
“But our guys are going to compete on Saturday,” Adkins added. “I think a lot of teams when you play Moeller, you’re afraid of the jersey, our guys won’t be afraid of the jersey. They’re obviously the best team in the state, our guys will be up to the challenge. This is something that they want, and we’ll be prepared and hopefully it will be good enough.”