Lakota West junior Malik Grove gave up bowling for this.
Grove, who as a freshman rolled a perfect game for Lakota West, quit the bowling team last season when West’s varsity head basketball coach Sean Van Winkle told him he had to focus on his other winter sport.
“I played both sports freshman year, when I played on JV, but you can’t miss practice when you are on the varsity,” Grove said. “I decided that I would just play in spring (bowling) tournaments, so I could concentrate on basketball.”It paid off Tuesday night, as Grove’s 10 fourth quarter points helped the Firebirds hold off inner-school district Lakota East, 60-53.
Lakota East entered the game ranked No. 4 in Associated Press state poll, which was the top ranking in Southwest Ohio, and No. 2 in The Cincinnati Enquirer’s Division I coaches poll. Lakota West, meanwhile, wasn’t ranked in either poll.
“That is so freaking impressive. That is what I heard. That is so useless,” Lakota East head coach Wally Vickers said of the state poll after the game. “That is really impressive. That is so useless in January and I think our guys were more than aware of that.”
Vicker’s team certainly looked like one of the top teams in the state in the early going and led the Firebirds 14-8 in the second quarter.
That was when Lakota West senior Ali Barnes scored seven points while guiding his team on a 17-4 run to end the first half – giving West a 25-18 advantage at the break.
East responded with a 13-4 run to begin the second half and led 31-29 with 3:03 remaining in the third quarter.
West would rebound with a 10-0 run of their own to end the quarter.
In the final frame, West led 48-39 midway through the quarter before East trimmed the lead to 49-48 with 2:10 left in the game.
Leading 52-50 with 1:05 left, Grove scored five of his 16 points to seal the win.
Grove’s teammate, Barnes finished with 18 points.
After the game, Barnes dedicated the win to senior Monty Boykins, who was leading the Firebirds in scoring with 17.2 points per game before tearing his ACL in a 64-63 loss to Fairfield Dec. 28.
“The win means a lot, especially for our seniors,” Barnes said. “We really wanted to focus on winning this game for Monty. He would be dying to be out here with us.
“Also, this is the last time that I will ever play against East, unless we see them in the playoffs. It definitely feels good to win that last one.”
Lakota East was led by senior guard Stedman Lowry, who scored 13 of his game-high 21 points in the second half. Sophomore forward Myo Baxter added 11 points and 8 rebounds for the Thunderhawks.
The loss gives East its second in the past three games. After beginning the season 10-0, the team is now fallen to 11-2 and 5-1 in the Greater Miami Conference. Lakota West, meanwhile, improves to 6-4 overall and 4-3 in conference play.
“We are just not a very good basketball team right now,” Vickers said of his Thunderhawks. “We can’t get stops when we need them, we turn it over at key times and they came in here and showed that they are determined group. I thought they really handed it to us.”
Lakota West (6-4, 4-3 in GMC) - Barnes 7 3 18, Bowling 3 0 6, Williams 1 1 3, Peterkin 1 0 2, Thomas 2 2 6, Moo Young 1 2 4, Grove 6 3 16, Martin 2 1 5. Totals 23 12 60.
Lakota East (11-2, 5-1 in GMC) - Emrick 2 3 7, Harpring 3 2 8, Lowry 8 4 21, Panzeca 1 0 2, Baxter 5 0 11, White 2 0 4. Totals 21 9 53.
Halftime: Lakota West 25-18. 3-pointers: LW 2 (Bowling, Grove); LE 2 (Lowry, Baxter).