Mason’s Jenna Gunn drives to the basket during the Comets’ 45-39 overtime win at Lakota West on Dec. 4. The two teams will meet for the third time this year in a Division I sectional final Monday at Lakota East. Tony Tribble for the Enquirer
Mike Dyer reports:
With district final berths at stake, Monday’s Division I girls’ basketball sectional finals at Lakota East are another significant step in the postseason for some of the area’s top teams.
The Mason (22-1) vs. Lakota West (19-5) game at 7:30 p.m. is definitely one of the top games to watch this postseason. Monday marks the third meeting between the teams this season.
Mason defeated host Lakota West 45-39 in overtime on Dec. 4. On Jan. 11, the host Comets edged Lakota West 55-54.
“The girls have heard us say that games like Monday are why being a contender is so much fun,” Lakota West coach Andy Fishman said. “The girls know I see both of Mason and Lakota West as two very strong, balanced teams with state championship aspirations.”
Mason is ranked No. 44 nationally by USA Today and ranked No. 2 in the season’s final Associated Press state poll. Lakota West is ranked No. 3 in The Enquirer Division I coaches’ poll.
“So far, Mason has proved better in both games when its mattered most,” Fishman said. “Our girls know that this game provides another opportunity to answer the bell.”
Princeton (22-2), ranked No. 1 in the Associated Press state poll and No. 1 in The Enquirer poll, plays Colerain (15-8) at 6 p.m.
The District 16 Senior East vs. West All-Star Games are March 19 at St. Bernard High School. The Divisions II-IV game will be at 6 p.m. The award presentation of District 16 all-stars and coach of the year is at 7:30 p.m. The Division I all-star game is at 8 p.m.
Haley Vorherr’s only field goal of the game Saturday afternoon at Mason High School did not give her team the lead or tie the score in Mason’s 55-54 comeback win over Greater Miami Conference rival Lakota West.
But it was big.
The senior guard drained a 3-pointer from the corner with 1:05 to play in the fourth quarter to pull her team to within one point, turning the tide one final time in a game of changing tides. Sophomore guard Jailyn Mason followed seconds later with a jumper in the lane to give the Comets the lead for good at 53-52.
“I’m a senior this year and I’m getting a lot more playing time than I have previous years, so yeah, that’s probably the biggest shot I’ve hit in a game,” Vorherr said. “It felt really great.”
Senior guard Jenna Gunn sealed the win with two free throws in the final 30 seconds.
The Comets (13-0, 9-0 GMC), ranked No. 1 in the Enquirer Division I area coaches’ poll, completed a regular-season sweep of No. 3 Lakota West. Mason beat the Firebirds (9-4, 4-4) in the first matchup, 45-39 in overtime, Dec. 4 at Lakota West.
Mason trailed the entire first half Saturday and Lakota West led by as many as nine. But the Comets surged to a 36-31 lead midway through the third quarter. The Firebirds used a 14-3 run spanning the third and fourth quarters to take a 49-43 lead with less than four minutes to play.
There were five lead changes and three ties in the second half and the Comets were behind 52-48 when Vorherr got the ball in the corner.
“We were running spread and everybody was just moving the ball around and I ended up in the corner,” Vorherr said. “I was going to pass into Lauren (Van Kleunen) in the post, but the girl doubled down on her. I think she knew what I was going to do, so I just shot.”
It was the only shot she made in only three attempts.
“I told her that is why we believe in our players,” Mason coach Rob Matula said. “She’s a senior who played JV as a junior and she has just worked unbelievably hard on her game. We have confidence in her. Just calm and cool in the corner, she loaded it up and knocked it down. It was huge.”
Princeton’s # 33 Carlie Pogue and # 15 Jada Ballew try to slow down Lakota West’s #15 Elisabeth Carter but she slipped through. The Enquirer/ Tony Jones
By Jeff Wallner, Enquirer contributor
The challenge defensively for Princeton’s opponents this season is which Mitchell sister to focus on. Senior guard Kelsey Mitchell is an Ohio State University commit and two-time Enquirer player of the year. On Wednesday night it was hot perimeter shooting by her sister, Chelsea, which sparked a Vikings victory.
Chelsea Mitchell, also a Buckeyes commit, hit five 3-pointers and scored 15 points, and Kelsey added a team-leading 24 points, lifting Princeton, ranked No. 1 in the Enquirer Division I area coaches’ poll, to a 64-52 victory over No. 3 Lakota West in a clash of Greater Miami Conference powers.
“Chelsea’s been shooting the ball well lately. She’s confident in her shot,” said Vikings coach Jill Phillips. “We talked after the loss to Fairmont that we needed to be more balanced. There will be nights when Kelsey’s going to be off. It’s rare.”
Junior guard Lauren Cannatelli scored 17 points, and sophomore guard Nia Staples added 16 for the Firebirds.
The Vikings, who were coming off a 63-54 loss to defending Division I state champion Kettering Fairmont, looked sluggish early in Wednesday’s game.
A strong defensive effort by Cannatelli, a University of Dayton commit, made things tough early on for Kelsey Mitchell, who went scoreless in the first quarter while picking up two fouls.
Amber Gray becomes first to have number retired at Lakota West
On National Signing Day, a day when high school student athletes throughout the country are celebrated for what they will do in the future, a former high school athlete returned to her alma mater to be recognized for what she has done.
Amber Gray’s story is as inspirational as they come and, deservingly so, Lakota West bestowed an honor that it has never done before – by retiring her No. 10 jersey just prior to the Lakota East at Lakota West varsity basketball game Wednesday night.
“It is a huge honor. I don’t think I would be where I am without my teammates and coaches,” Gray said.
“To be able to always walk into Lakota West and see that number up there will always bring back the memories of the great times and the stories that I have throughout my high school career.”
On the basketball floor, Gray’s story began Nov. 23, 2004.
Lakota sports historian Bob Ashby remembers it clearly.
At the time, West Chester Township was abounded with buzz about a freshman phenom, who was going to the start season opener at Vandalia-Butler. Ashby had to see it.
The debut started with Gray winning the opening tip, getting the ball back and scoring the game’s first basket. Behind its new star, West jumped out to a big lead and by the third quarter, Gray was done of for the day – on the bench with 24 points, 10 rebounds in only 18 minutes of play.
From there, Gray didn’t slow down becoming the school’s all-time leader in points scored (1,931), rebounds (925), assists (197), blocks (130) and games played (99).
Her spectacular play earned her the distinction of being named a McDonald’s All-American and a full ride to play for NCAA’s all-time winningest coach Pat Summitt at the University of Tennessee.
After seeing some action as a freshman – averaging 2.7 points per game in 27 appearances – Gray underwent shoulder surgery in the offseason.
The surgery was declared a success until Gray’s lungs inexplicably filled up with fluid. She couldn’t breathe on her own and was put on life support for four days.
She would eventually recover, from what was later determined a stroke caused by a brain aneurysm, but it was a fight.
Gray brought the fight back home and transferred to Xavier, where she is now senior and leads her team in scoring with 10.8 points per game.
“She is very inspiring. That goes without question,” her father Carlton Gray said. “This isn’t just about basketball, it also about how she has recovered and attacked everything with a positive attitude. As a parent you can learn from that.”
Once Amber graduates from Xavier in May, she plans to take her infectious positive attitude into coaching. Gray said that she would like to do it on the collegiate level.
“I may also want to work with younger players as well,” she said. “I have younger siblings and that has always been a huge priority of mine – making sure they are able to accomplish their dreams.”
Whenever Amber gets a break from school and college basketball, she will attend practices and help coach her younger sisters – Chance Gray, 8, Alanna Carter, 10, Sierra Herrera, 16, and Skylar Herrera, 12.
“She is the best ever, she teaches us basketball,” Alanna said. “She also teaches us how to be a good person.”
In honor of Gray, Lakota West donned its away red jerseys to match Gray’s replica jersey in Lakota West’s gym and defeated school-district rival Lakota East 49-39. Lakota West’s next potential star, sophomore Lauren Cannatelli, led all scorers with 21 points.
Xavier’s Amber Gray will become first Lakota basketball player to have her number retired
The best basketball player ever to don a Lakota West basketball jersey, Amber Gray, will become the school district’s first athlete of the sport to have her jersey retired.
Gray, who owns school career records in points, rebounds, assists, blocked shots and games played, will have her No. 10 jersey hung permanently in her high school’s gym before the Lakota East at Lakota West girls’ basketball game next Wednesday, Feb. 6. The ceremony will take place at approximately 7:15 p.m.
In 2008, Gray was considered one of the top Division I college recruits in the country. She finished her high school career with the following accolades – McDonald’s All-American, USA Today All-USA Third Team, Parade Magazine All-America, All-Southwest Ohio Player of the Year (twice), First-Team all-state, Cincinnati Enquirer Player of The Year (twice) and Greater Miami Conference Player of the Year (three times).
Many of the top collegiate programs wanted her and after careful consideration, Gray decided to commit to the University of Tennessee.
As a freshman at UT, Gray appeared in 27 games and averaged 2.7 points per game. After the season, however, Gray’s basketball career would be put on hold.
She had suffered a shoulder injury, which she tried to rehab through conditioning. Her shoulder, however, didn’t get better. Gray elected to have surgery in July of 2009.
The surgery performed at St. Mary’s Medical Center in Knoxville, Tenn., was called a success as Gray’s parents and grandparents sat in the waiting room looking forward to seeing her.
A few hours later, no knew why but fluid filled Amber’s lungs. She could not breathe on her own. She was rushed to the intensive care unit and put on life support where she stayed for four days.
“We went from celebrating the success of a shoulder surgery to not knowing if she would ever wake up again,” Amber’s mother Tonya Carter said. (more…)
Nine Lakota East student athletes were honored during a signing day event at Lakota East High School May 16, 2012. Photo taken by Adam Kiefaber of WestChesterBuzz.com.
Lakota East High School honored nine student athletes Wednesday during its spring signing day event. Among those recognized include Jacob Landers (Baldwin Wallace College, wrestling), Ivan Thomas (Kentucky Christian University, football), Tyler Overberg (College of Mount St. Joseph, golf), Morgan Weinheimer (University of Mississippi, volleyball), Jeff Mundy Jr. (Kentucky Christian University, football), Tanner Lyons (Centre College, track and field), Aleth Pashi (Otterbein University, basketball), Jacqui Tackett (Mount St. Joseph, lacrosse) and Molly Blomer (Nova Southeastern University, basketball).
“It was awesome. I was excited to see all my friends sign,” said Weinheimer, who was also considering Wright State University and Xavier University, among others. “It’s exciting because I want to see them do big things.”
The 5’4″ Weinheimer, who played the libero position for the Thunderhawks, was a first team All-GMC selection in 2011. She also led the GMC with 5.34 digs per game.
Her senior volleyball classmates, Hannah Berling (Tusculum College), Hannah Sigala (Morehead State University), Lauren Beitel (Otterbein) and Emily Bostian (Otterbein) were all honored at a signing day event Feb. 1. In addition to the seniors, junior teammates Ali Lake (Ohio University) and Ashley Evans (Purdue University) have verbally committed to programs.
Joining Weinheimer at Wednesday’s signing were basketball players Aleth Pashi and Molly Blomer. In February, their teammates Alyssa Grevenkamp (University of Findlay) and Whitney Wyckoff (Yale University) were also recognized.
Also on Wednesday, two senior football players, offensive lineman Ivan Thomas and defensive back Jeff Mundy Jr., signed on to play at the same college – Kentucky Christian University.
“They (KCU) are going to receive two good players, two good people and hopefully they will leave the program better than they left it,” Lakota East head football coach Rick Haynes said.
“It is always great to see guys forward their careers and move on to the next level. I think, both of them, as long as they put in the time and effort are going to have success.”
Other Lakota East senior student athletes, who were recognized for continuing their athletic careers in college in February, include Zach Mueck (Xavier, tennis) Michael Conrad (University of Cincinnati, baseball), Alex Corna (Ohio, baseball), Michaela Buczek (Mount St. Joseph, lacrosse), Ainsely Ellison (Hillsdale College, softball), Sofey Fugate (Heidelberg University, tennis), Jessika Hall (Michigan State University, swimming), Tori Meyer (Albright College, lacrosse), Mark Minch (Ohio Dominican University, basketball), Tony O’Connor (Northern Kentucky University, cross country/track) and Joe Postlewait (Walsh University, lacrosse)
Nobody guards Amber Gray on the basketball court as closely as “Henry” does. “Henry” is what the Xavier University forward calls the transparent face mask she wears “just to make sure I’m safe out there.” Doctors’ orders.
“If somebody walked into the gym right now and watched her play, all they would do is see the mask, and most people probably assume she’s recovering from a broken nose or something,” said her father, Carlton Gray. “Because of how she carries herself, and because of where she’s at, most people just don’t realize how serious it was and how far she’s come.”
Gray suffered a stroke early that July and days later underwent brain surgery. The 12 1/2-hour procedure involved clipping the bleeding aneurysm that caused the stroke and taking an artery from her left forearm and using it to bypass the damaged blood vessel in her brain.
“She has made not only a remarkable but close to incredible recovery,” said Dr. Mario Zuccarello, the Mayfield Clinic neurosurgeon and chair of the University of Cincinnati’s Department of Neurosurgery who performed the delicate operation at University Hospital.
“She has been able to overcome physical difficulties that many times other patients cannot overcome. She’s taking full advantage of her physical fitness and is back pretty much to normal.”
Gray bears three scars from the procedure – one on her forearm, another in a natural crease on her neck and a third concealed behind her hairline – but pays them little mind. Her concern is helping the Musketeers win basketball games.
“That’s with any injury,” Gray said. “The second you go out there and play tentative, that’s when something happens. That’s when you end up getting hurt.
“It’s hard to explain because I’m out there like, I’m fine. What was there is gone. The problem that was there isn’t there anymore. So I’m like, ‘Well, let’s just play.’ ” (more…)