Lakota West guard Danielle Wells scores in the Girls Sectional final game between the Turpin Spartans and the Lakota West Firebirds at Lakota East High School.
Maintaining his team’s focus the past few months has been Lakota West girls basketball coach Andy Fishman’s toughest challenge.
No Firebirds opponent has gotten closer than 13 points against them since the last weekend in December.
“I believe we have very humble and respectful players,” Fishman says. “I feel like we were due for a close one.”
On Monday night, senior guard Lauren Cannatelli scored 14 points and went 4-of-7 from 3-point range, as the Firebirds fought off pesky Turpin, 60-42, to claim the sectional championship.
Junior guard Nia Staples scored 12 points, and junior guard Danielle Wells added 10 for West which next faces No. 6 seed Lebanon in the district final on Saturday at Harrison High School.
The Firebirds have won 16 straight games dating to a loss to Kettering Alter, the state’s top-ranked Division II team, on Dec. 28.
But, Lakota West’s players now can sense the games gaining importance.
“We always have high standards for ourselves,” said Cannatelli. “We know the road we have to take to accomplish our goals.”
Turpin senior forward Mackenzie Campbell led all scorers with 19 points on Monday night to help keep the Spartans relatively close.
“We fought and battled to the end,” said Turpin coach Stacy Alexander. “(West) is very talented. We wanted to take away their transition and slow them down into a half-court game.”
But, the Firebirds forced 18 turnovers and had 13 steals, preventing a Turpin comeback.
It was a night of milestones for Lakota West.
Cannatelli, a University of Dayton commit, played in her 100th varsity game, eclipsing Amber Gray’s 99 for most in school history.
Whitaker recorded her 131st career blocked shot in the fourth quarter to break Gray’s school record. She finished with nine points, seven rebounds and three blocks on Monday.
West won its first two postseason games by an average of 56 points. But, Turpin proved to be a stiffer challenge on Monday night.
“I give it to Turpin,” said Cannatelli. “They played hard. They were attacking the rim, going for offensive rebounds. We had to work hard on defense.”
After Lakota West began the game with a 9-0 run, Campbell responded by scoring Turpin’s first nine points, including a pair of 3-pointers.
West led by 11 early on, but Turpin went 3 of 6 from 3-point range in the first quarter to claw back within six.
A 7-0 run put the Firebirds ahead 28-15. But Turpin didn’t let the game get away from them in the first half.
Junior guard Lexi Wasan scored all eight of her points in the first half. She was among seven players who scored in the first half for the Firebirds, led by Cannatelli’s nine.
Lakota West methodically pulled away in the third quarter. Whitaker’s short jumper made the score 45-26.
“We certainly didn’t play our best game of the year,” Fishman said. “But, all credit to Turpin. They were very scrappy. They played with nothing to lose.”
Turpin (19-6) – Mills 2 0 4, Workman 1 0 3, Christopher 1 4 7, 5 7 19, Kerregan 1 0 2, Welsh 3 1 7. Totals: 13 12 42.
Lakota West (23-2) – Wells 5 0 10, Staples 5 2 12, Cannatelli 5 0 14, Whitaker 4 1 9, Wasan 4 0 8, Prohaska 2 0 4. Totals: 26 3 60.
3-pointers: Turpin 4 (Campbell 2, Workman, Christopher), Lakota West 5 (Jones Cannatelli 4).