WEST CHESTER TWP. — The tide has been going in the right direction for the Lakota East High School girls basketball team.
Especially against its crosstown Greater Miami Conference rival.
Madison French scored a team-high 15 points, Brooke Asher had 10 points and five rebounds and the Thunderhawks used a second quarter burst to set the tone in their 62-44 victory over host Lakota West on Wednesday night.
“You can’t come into Lakota West as Lakota East and expect any sort of easy game,” East coach Dan Wallace said. “They’re going to bring everything they’ve got.”
Lakota West beat Lakota East 19 consecutive times in 10 years leading up to last season. But now, the Thunderhawks have won 11 straight games and two in a row against their rivals.
“I don’t remember what the statistic was,” Wallace said, “but when I took over here at Lakota East, I can’t tell you how many games West had beat East. … Hopefully we can get another one later in the year.”
The typical East-West rivalry vibes ran radiant in the first quarter as the Thunderhawks (12-1, 7-0 GMC) clung tight to a 13-12 lead.
But the visiting Thunderhawks stormed out of the second-quarter gate with an 18-2 run, shifting things quickly. Six different Lakota East scorers contributed to the scoring spree.
The Thunderhawks led 35-18 at the break.
“We do a great job of moving the ball,” said French, a senior guard and Miami University commit. “We really just trust each other. We always want one more pass.”
Freshman Katie Fox scored a game-high 17 points and freshman Caroline Bayliff had 13 for Lakota West (7-4, 4-3 GMC), which showed grit in the second half.
“I thought our girls fought like crazy and never gave up,” Firebirds coach Andy Fishman said. “I’m really happy with that. We’re going to keep working, keep pushing and do what we can to keep getting better.
“You have to give (East) credit,” Fishman added. “They made shots, they defended well, and they took advantage of our missed opportunities off the offensive glass.”
Wallace said he was particularly impressed with exactly that — his team’s second chance looks.
“It’s our offensive rebounding the last couple of weeks and our ability to just continue to go after a team,” Wallace said.
Seniors Payton Woody and Savannah Smith each scored eight points for the Thunderhawks, while senior Riley Wood had seven points and sophomore Katlyn Pham added seven points and a game-high seven rebounds.
“Our goal is to be on top of the GMC — get West, get Mason, get Princeton,” Woody said. “We’ve had these goals for a long time. Seeing what we’re doing now has been a really big motivator to just make us want to keep going.
“We rely on our deep bench,” Woody added. “On any night, we can go to anybody and they can score. We can move the ball around, get steals and play defense. It really helps that we have a lot of players who can do just about everything.”
Smith drained a 3-pointer to give the Thunderhawks their largest lead of the night at 57-37 with 3:12 left to play.
“Our leadership from our seniors, even the ones who aren’t on the floor all the time, they bring so much of it,” Wallace said. “They just make it so fun to coach. They’re just enjoying playing together. They’re not playing with pressure. They’re playing to have fun, and that lets them play free.”
IN THE KNOW
Six players scored five or more points in the first half of Wednesday’s game for Lakota East, which fired 14 of 27 (51.9%) from the floor in the first 16 minutes. … Fox leads the GMC with 3.8 assists a game and averages a team-best 12.1 points a game for Lakota West as a freshman. … The East-West rematch takes place at Lakota East on Jan. 25.
Both teams get back to action on Saturday. Lakota West hosts Middletown, while Lakota East welcomes Colerain.