Lakota West became the fourth and final varsity basketball team from the Lakota school district to be eliminated from postseason play when it lost by the score of 58-55 to Turpin in a sectional semifinal game in the Division I state basketball tournament Wednesday.
Helping Turpin hold on was junior guard Connor Grotten, who made a pair of free throws to push the lead to three points with three seconds remaining. Prior to the foul shots, senior forward Adam Boyer blocked a potential game-winning layup by the Firebirds on the other end of the floor.
“They’re a really good team and this win validates what we thought of our team all season,” Turpin coach Brad Cupito told The Cincinnati Enquirer. “We knew we were one of the top teams in the area and are thankful there’s a tournament format that allows us to prove it.”
Turpin sophomore Zach McCormick may have proved to be one of the area’s top sophomores, after finishing with a game-high 23 points. During the season, McCormick averaged 18.7 points per game. According to Rivals.com, he already has a scholarship offer from Duquesne.
Meanwhile, Lakota West junior Monty Boykins led his team with 16 points. Boykins also has an offer from Duquesne, as well as offers from Eastern Michigan, James Madison, Kennesaw State and Miami (Ohio).
His teammates, junior Ali Barnes and sophomore Tyler Williams, also helped the Firebirds keep the game close. Barnes scored 13, while Williams finished with 14.
The loss eliminates the season for the Firebirds, who finish the year with a 15-7 overall record and a 11-3 mark within the Greater Miami Conference. The 15 wins equals the program’s best since the 2006-2007 season and the best record under current head coach Sean Van Winkle.
“In my eight years as a head coach both at Ross and Lakota West I have never had a team improve as much as we did this season in so many different ways,” Van Winkle said. “The true credit goes to the players and assistant coaches for their persistence towards wanting to become a better team.”
Next year, the Firebirds will return their top three scorers in Boykins, Barnes and Williams, but will be without seniors Jackson Blue, Cole Stalker, Kayuane Ross and Caleb Poston.
“This year’s seniors – Jackson Blue, Cole Stalker, Kayuane Ross, and Caleb Poston all represented Lakota West in a very good way,” Van Winkle said. “For our underclassman we will challenge them to continue to work hard and build on this year’s success.”