No disrespect to Huber Heights Wayne and Springboro, but Andy Fishman believes Saturday’s regional final is the game most folks want to see.
For the third consecutive season, two Greater Miami Conference girls’ basketball teams will meet for the regional final.
Lakota West (26-1), the reigning Division I state champion, plays Mason (24-2) at 7 p.m. Saturday at Kettering Fairmont for the right to advance to the state tournament March 11 in Columbus.
“An epic battle between GMC, Cincinnati and Southwest Ohio friendly rivals,” said Fishman, the longtime Firebirds’ coach. “Both teams will be familiar, well-prepared and motivated – so it comes down to execution.”
The winner will play either Canton McKinley or Solon in a state semifinal at 8 p.m. March 11 at Ohio State University’s Value City Arena.
There will be high intensity at Fairmont Saturday night; this is the third time these two teams have met this season. But there is also a great deal of respect on both sides.
The Firebirds won both games, including the season opener way back on Nov. 24 and at Mason Jan. 9.
Comets coach Rob Matula says there isn’t much to tell his team about Lakota West. Mason has to withstand the Firebirds’ intensity, hit some shots and play well defensively.
At this point in the year, there isn't some sort of magical potion or new philosophy that is going to change who we are,” Matula said. “We just need to go out and play our game. Play loose and free and expect to win.”
In Wednesday’s regional semifinals, both teams had underclassmen that stood out. Lakota West sophomore forward Abby Prohaska had 16 points and 10 rebounds in the Firebirds’ 55-42 win over Springboro.
Lakota West seniors Nia Staples – the Associated Press Southwest District player of the year – and Lexi Wasan each had 12 points.
Mason freshman forward Samantha Puisis had 16 points, four assists and four steals. Senior forward Lauren Van Kleunen had 11 points, five rebounds, four assists and two steals.
Saturday also exhibits just how strong the Cincinnati-area basketball scene has been the past few seasons. The future looks bright with the emergence of the underclassmen. Saturday's winner could certainly win the state championship next weekend.
Fishman said every season Lakota West designs a system to take advantage of the personnel to prepare for the teams on the schedule. This year is no different. His team takes nothing for granted.
“The girls know based on previous game preps that I personally and we as a program respect Mason’s coaching staff and talent,” Fishman said. “There are other very good teams in the GGCL, GWOC and GMC, but this matchup is wow.”