MASON, Ohio — Jasmine Ballew relishes games like the slugfest Saturday between her Lakota West girls’ basketball team and Greater Miami Conference rival, Mason.
West (16-2 overall), ranked No. 2 in the WCPO Power 9 Ohio girls’ basketball rankings, went into Mason (15-2) Saturday and rallied past No. 1 Mason for a 64-61 win, tying the Comets atop the GMC standings with four league games remaining. Mason had led by 11 in the first half.
Both teams are 11-1 in the conference.
Ballew, a junior forward, scored 13 in the game, making 3 of 4 from 3-point range. Junior guard Sarah Jones tied her career high with 19 points for the Firebirds, making 5 of 9 from 3-point range.
“That’s the type of game I want to play in,” Ballew said. “That was fun. I know my teammates have my back and we were all for it.”
Jones hit four of her five trys in the first half. Once Mason expanded its lead to 22-11 early in the second quarter, Jones drilled a 3-pointer to make it 22-14. A couple possessions later, she was there again with a 3-pointer to make it 23-19.
“They were pretty big just to keep us in the game because our shots weren’t really falling,” Jones said. “I just stepped up and made the shots.”
Then Ballew showed up. Her first triple of the game drew the Firebirds to within three points again at 25-22 late in the second quarter and her second tied the game at 27-27 with 2:10 to play before halftime. Mason went into halftime with a 30-28 lead, but West had the momentum.
“I knew my coach needed me there and my coach needed me to make a play,” Ballew said. “I went ahead and took it.”
Ballew’s 3-pointer to open the third quarter gave the Firebirds the lead for good at 31-30. It was the first lead for West since Jones’s first trey made it 3-2 early on.
“Coach Fishman told us to keep playing, and we knew we had to make some big plays,” Ballew said.
The Firebirds built a 34-30 lead and then led 36-32 before a 3-pointer by Mason sophomore Sammie Puisis made it 36-35. That’s when Jones hit her final 3-pointer to stop the Mason momentum midway through the third.
“The clutch shooting at critical times to get us back in the game when they had their 11-point lead, I thought our girls did a great job of sticking with the game plan,” West coach Andy Fishman said. “At that point, if we were not on our game, then we try and rush things. I loved the ball movement to get those open looks and I loved the way we kept going back to the hot hands, whether it was Jasmine or Sarah. I liked the way we got them the ball back in good space and didn’t force things.”
Mason tied the game again at 41-41 late in the third quarter, but West maintained a four-to-six-point lead the rest of the way. The Comets weren’t able to put back-to-back scoring possessions together in the fourth quarter without an answer by West.
“This is a heavyweight battle,” Fishman said. “It’s 15 rounds. We’re just chopping away, doing what we can do.”
It was the type of game Lakota West and Mason fans have become accustomed to. Mason junior forward Ti Fulton had scored the final five points on Dec. 3 to give Mason a 44-42 win over West earlier this season, ending the Firebirds’ GMC winning streak at 39 games.
“The first time we played them, we weren’t together as a team,” Jones said. “We weren’t working together and I feel like that loss was better for us so we could win this game.”
Puisis scored a game high 29 for Mason. Freshman Nevaeh Dean added 10 for West and junior guard/forward and University of Notre Dame recruit, Abby Prohaska, added eight, including four in the fourth quarter.
But Jones and Ballew were clearly the difference for the Firebirds.
“There are moments during that game when you’re like, ‘Wow, this is truly amazing,’” Fishman said. “We’re so blessed because we get to do this frequently, whether it’s with Mason or it’s with MND or St. Rose or Kettering Alter. These are the games that you really, really look forward to.”
The top two area teams won’t meet again in the regular season, but another meeting late in the postseason is a good possibility.
“It would be fun,” Fishman said. “If that’s the way it ends up, then it’s on.”