Cincinnati Enquirer contributor Tom Ramstetter reports:
Senior forward Keri Kleist scored 17 points and senior guard Chloe Pavlech added 14 as the top-ranked Sycamore girls’ basketball team cruised past Lakota East 48-39 Saturday afternoon in a Greater Miami Conference girls’ basketball game at Lakota East.
It was the 16th straight win for the Aviators, who took over the top spot in the Enquirer Division I coaches poll from Princeton last week after a win at Princeton Jan. 25. The Aves’ last loss came at the hands of the Vikings Dec. 3.
“(Our schedule) has been brutal,” Sycamore coach Paula Hayden said. “We knew after Princeton that we could not afford another loss. Princeton has that reputation of running the gamut. So Princeton was a big game for us. We beat them, but then we had (Lakota) West, Colerain and (Lakota) East who are three of the top teams in the GMC. Every game, I put on the board that today is a championship game.”
Lakota East, ranked No. 4, was the fourth game in that stretch and Saturday was the Thunderhawks’ Senior Night game. Despite Sycamore building a 12-point lead midway through the fourth quarter, East stormed back to cut the lead to 40-34 with 2:59 to play on a 3-pointer by freshman guard Cydney Franklin to cap a 6-0 run.
Hayden called a timeout at that point and looked to her seniors to come out of the break and make a play. Pavlech drew the attention of the defense out of the inbounds and found a wide-open Kleist under the basket for a momentum-stealing layup.
“She did exactly what we wanted her to do,” Kleist said of Pavlech. “The coaches wanted her to drive because they know that people will help and I’ll be able to be wide open. It felt really great to get that pass and know it was going in. Plays like those really get me pumped. It felt good to beat them on their Senior Night.”
The play was not designed specifically for Kleist, but Hayden knew something would open up.
“We were moving the ball,” Hayden said. “Chloe broke down the defense. She drew three people, bounce-passed to Keri and Keri finished. We worked on that yesterday and we worked on it today. They executed.”
Pavlech was the key to another turning-point play in the first half, giving the Aviators the lead for good at 14-12 with a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 6:25 to play before halftime. Lakota East had just taken its first lead of the game, 12-11, on a 3-pointer from the wing by Bernice Satterwhite to cap a 7-0 run. Pavlech followed her 3-pointer with two free throws and Lakota East got no closer than four points the rest of the way.
“The biggest thing I thought was for us not to lose our composure and I kind of knew at the same time, we needed a big shot for us to get pumped,” Pavlech said. “I had missed my first three threes, but the fourth one I had confidence it was going in. I was wide-open at the top of the key and I decided to shoot it. That just got us super pumped. From then on, everyone believed this was our game.”
Satterwhite led the Thunderhawks with 14 points and Franklin added 11.
The Aviators travel to Middletown next Saturday for the regular-season finale with a chance to clinch their first GMC title since sharing the crown with Colerain and Princeton in the 1999-2000 season and their first outright GMC title since winning two straight in 1992-1993 and 1993-1994, if they get a little help with a Princeton loss, according to the GMC website.
“It’s amazing,” Pavlech said. “This feels great. We have a sign in our locker room that says we will be No. 1 and that’s what we’re working for. For us to have a chance to be No. 1 in the GMC is a big deal because our league is very competitive and very good.”
The league has been very good for a long time, but Hayden had a special feeling about this team before the season.
“I told the girls that for the first time ever, and I’ve been coaching a long, long time, that I put them No. 1 in the city and put them No.1 in the GMC,” Hayden said. “I don’t do that unless I believe in my heart that was a possibility.
“They know, but they’re not overly excited. They’re happy. They’re pleased. But it’s not over.”
Sycamore 48, Lakota East 39
Sycamore (18-1 overall, 12-1 in the GMC) – Newbolt 0 5 5, Locke 2 0 4, Kleist 6 5 17, Pavlech 5 2 14, Outlaw 3 0 6, Hancher 1 0 2. Totals 17 12 48.
Lakota East (11-7 overall, 8-5 in the GMC) – Satterwhite 5 1 14, Grevenkamp 1 0 3, Franklin 4 1 11, White 0 2 2, Shaw 0 1 1, Blomer 3 2 8. Totals 13 7 39.
Halftime: Sycamore 25-17. 3-pointers: S 2 (Pavlech 2), LE 6 (Satterwhite 3, Franklin 2, Grevenkamp).