By Marc Hardin, Enquirer contributor
Lakota West basketball coach Andy Fishman has a lot of respect for Mason, and even more confidence in his girls.
With top-ranked Mason already at the top of the Division I, Cincinnati 4 sectional bracket at the Southwest District girls’ basketball tournament draw, Fishman, with the third pick as the No. 3 seed, could have chosen to place his team in any of the other four brackets to avoid an early matchup against the Comets.
Fishman nixed that idea at Sunday afternoon’s draw at Lakota West and put the Firebirds (14-5), ranked No. 3 in the Enquirer area Division I coaches’ poll, in the Cincinnati 4 sectional, where they could meet top-seeded Mason (18-1) in the final Feb. 24 at Lakota East.
The sectional champion advances to the Harrison District and plays the Dayton 2 sectional winner. Lakota West opens tournament play Feb. 15 against Northwest (3-17). Mason’s opener is Feb. 20 against the Feb. 15 Sycamore-Harrison winner. Because they drew a bye, the Comets need one win to advance to the sectional final.
The Firebirds need two wins to make the final. Should they take their first game, they would next play either Glen Este (9-10) or Hamilton (5-15).
“There are several reasons why we did that,” Fishman said. “We love playing at Lakota East; it’s very familiar to us. Additionally, we’re looking at the path of least resistance to bigger and better things. We have a lot of respect for Mason. They beat us twice, and both were good games. But that’s the news. Potentially, we could have Lakota West-Mason.”
Mason coach Rob Matula chose the Cincinnati 4 bracket with the first pick.
“It’s not every year you get a 1 and a 3 seed playing in the same sectional,” Matula said. “But this gives us a chance to heal by taking a bye. I also did a little research, and the opportunity to get to the district championship against a Dayton team has been good for us in the past.”
Princeton, ranked second locally, had the No. 2 seed and drew into the Cincinnati 3 sectional at Lakota East. The Vikings (17-2) open Feb. 13 against Kings (3-14). A win would advance Princeton to the second round against Loveland (0-19), which drew a bye. No. 13 seed Colerain (12-6), No. 17 Seton (9-11) and No. 23 St. Ursula (4-14) are on the other side of the bracket.
“Mason is in one bracket, and two others match up with the top two teams from Dayton for districts. We match up with the other bracket,” Princeton coach Jill Phillips said.
If the Vikings advance, they would play the Cincinnati I sectional winner March 1 at the Harrison District. The top seeds in Cincinnati 1 at Kings are No. 8 McAuley (12-7) at the top of the bracket and No. 9 Walnut Hills (15-4) at the bottom.
No. 4 Winton Woods (16-3) drew a bye and is the top seed in the Cincinnati 2 sectional at Kings. No. 6 Mercy (14-6) is on the other side of the bracket.
The first day of sectional tournament play is Feb. 11 when No. 7 seed Talawanda (16-2) takes on Oak Hills (4-15) in a 6:30 p.m. Cincinnati 5 first-round contest at Harrison. No. 5 Mount Notre Dame (13-5) is the sectional’s top seed.
Other draw results have Wyoming (18-1) as the No. 1 seed in the Division II sectional at Withrow. New Richmond (16-2) is the No. 2 seed and McNicholas (12-8) is No. 3. Play starts Feb. 14.
Badin (8-11) is the top seed at the Division III sectional at Fairfield, which starts Feb. 13. Mariemont (13-7) is the No. 2 seed and Reading (14-7) is No. 3.
Fayetteville Perry (17-0) is the top seed in Division IV at Monroe. Felicity Franklin (11-4) is No. 2. Seven Hills (11-8) is No. 3. Play begins Feb. 13.