Cincinnati Enquirer contributor Tom Ramstetter reports:
Senior wing Jackson Blue calmly hit two free throws with 45 seconds to play and Lakota West clinging to a three-point lead and the Firebirds held on to upset No. 3 Mason 73-65 Friday night at Mason.
The Firebirds are unranked in the latest Division I Enquirer coaches’ poll.
Senior wing Kayuane Ross hit one of two free throws one possession later and junior wing Monty Boykins added two more to ice the game for Lakota West in the closing seconds.
“I’m just trying to relax and go through my normal routine so I can knock it down,” Blue said of his late free throws. “I just did what I do normally and made the shots. It’s just practice. Coach has us shoot a lot of free throws. It’s routine, so I’m used to just stepping up to the line and making a shot.”
Mason furiously trimmed a late 68-58 deficit to three points, led by senior guard JD Sprague who scored six in a 7-0 Mason run that put the Comets in position to tie the game. That set up Blue at the line with less than a minute to play.
“They were playing really well,” Boykins said. “They were trapping us and we had to make a few quick adjustments. I think we handled it pretty well. It was pretty nerve-wracking. It’s just the will to win. We had more heart than them tonight.”
Boykins scored a team high 25 points, junior point guard Ali Barnes scored 17 and Blue added 16 as West avenged a 70-60 loss to the Comets Jan. 6 at Lakota West.
Sprague led all scorers with a season-high 26 points. Mason senior forward Darin Harris added 14 for the Comets.
“It feels great to come in here and steal a win at Mason Arena,” Boykins said. “It’s always been tough for us every time we play here. It’s the first time I’ve ever won here. It was definitely something that motivated us, to get them back.”
Mason had beaten Lakota West in the teams’ three previous meetings. The Firebirds’ last win over Mason was a 59-55 overtime final Jan. 15, 2010 at Mason.
Blue said the Firebirds let a win slip away in the first game this season. This time, the Firebirds didn’t falter.
The Comets led briefly in the third quarter when a layup by Sprague put Mason In front 43-42. But Lakota West surged ahead for good when a free throw by sophomore Tyler Williams made the score 46-45 with 5:55 to play in the third.
“It was a big game for us,” Blue said. “We played them earlier in the season. We were up on them and we let them come back into it. We had a big lead again today and they started to come back. We just wouldn’t let them.”
Lakota West led 42-41 at halftime after leading by as many as 10 points twice in the second quarter. Senior guard Jonathan DeLotell hit a 3-pointer off the glass at the buzzer for Mason to give the Comets momentum heading into the locker room. Sprague scored 13 points in the second quarter for Mason.
Lakota West put together a rally of its own in the first quarter after trailing 4-0 early and 8-4 midway through the opening period. Barnes hit a 3-pointer with 3:45 to play in the first to give the Firebirds their first lead of the game at 12-11. Lakota West led 24-19 after the first quarter and never trailed again in the first half.
“We played hard defense, played together and it was a good team win,” Blue said. We can get a lot better.”
Lakota West 73, Mason 65
Lakota West (11-6 overall, 8-3 in the GMC): Ross 0 1 1, Blue 4 7 16, Barnes 4 7 17, Stalker 2 1 5, Williams 2 1 7, Boykins 9 3 25, Grove 1 0 2. Totals 22 20 73.
Mason (14-3 overall, 8-3 in the GMC): McVey 1 2 5, Sprague 9 5 26, Niehoff 2 0 4, DeLotell 1 0 3, Reed 1 1 3, Reale 1 0 2, Harris 6 2 14, Van Kleunen 1 6 8. Totals 22 16 65.
Halftime: 42-41, Lakota West. 3-pointers: LW 9 (Boykins 4, Williams 2, Barnes 2, Blue) M 5 (Sprague 3, McVey, DeLotell).
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