Slow start costly as Lakota East falls in sectional final

Lakota East guard Jarrett Cox shoots as Kings guard Gabe Stacy tries to block his attempt during their Division I sectional game at Lakota West on March 1. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY E.L. HUBBARD

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Lakota East guard Jarrett Cox shoots as Kings guard Gabe Stacy tries to block his attempt during their Division I sectional game at Lakota West on March 1. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY E.L. HUBBARD

Lakota East High School boys basketball coach Clint Adkins knew what kind of challenges Mason would pose after losing to the Comets twice in the regular season, but that didn’t make the third matchup any easier.

The Thunderhawks fell behind early by double digits, battled back to make it close in the second and third quarters and then went flat again as the Comets rolled to a 52-34 win Saturday night in a Division I sectional final at Lakota West.

Mason (20-2) faces Centerville in a district final March 11 at the University of Dayton Arena.

“We got off to a slow start,” Adkins said. “Our execution was poor and our movement in our motion was not very good. We had some turnovers, but our guys battled back and cut it to two and even late in the game we had multiple opportunities to even take the lead. We got killed in transition in the fourth quarter. We had opportunities and that’s all you can ask, but our execution wasn’t great and it was like that the first two times. To their credit, a big reason why is because they are so good defensively.”

Mason took advantage of 10 first-quarter turnovers to build as much as a 14-2 lead at the start of the second period before East (16-8) closed the half on a 13-3 run to make it a two-point game at the break.

The Hawks, who finished with 15 turnovers, tied the game three times with chances to pull ahead in the third quarter, but the Comets never let them take a lead.

“We calmed down, slowed down our motion offense, reversed it, got plenty of touches, and we started playing in attack mode,” Adkins said. “We were tight to start the game, and when you play tight like that, most of the time it leads to turnovers. Mason, when you turn the ball over, they make you pay.”

The Comets re-established the upper hand with some quick transition baskets to open the fourth quarter as part of a 12-0 run in the first five minutes, and the gap never closed within 11 points after that.

Mason finished out the game at the free-throw line, making 13 of 16 attempts in the final period.

“It was good to get off to a quick start,” Comets coach Greg Richards said. “We talked about everyone wanting to make plays, and they came out like that. I don’t know if we got gassed or what but we just quit making plays, and then going into the fourth quarter, we said, ‘We’ve only got eight minutes, so everybody has to sell out and make plays.’ We got some key steals and pushed the ball with some transition baskets and that was huge for us.”

Mason was playing without starter Ben Schutte, who was out sick, but had three guys finish in double figures for scoring, led by Eddie Puisis’ 15 points and 11 rebounds. Tanner Knue added 12 points, Noah Pedelty had 10 and Matt King chipped in nine.

“Our kids stepped up really well, playing without Ben Schutte today,” Richards said. “Everyone has to do a little bit more. Nobody has to do a lot. If you look at the stats, that’s what we got.”

Evan Kuhlman finished with 11 points for East after being limited by double teams early, and Jarrett Cox added 10 points before fouling out late in the game.

The Hawks graduate just two seniors, including Kuhlman, who averaged 16.5 points per game, and bench player Cameron Kollanos.

“We had a good season,” Adkins said. “We lost eight seniors from last year so we didn’t have a lot coming back, but I saw a lot of growth with our older guys and some of our younger kids. Obviously, we didn’t win the championships we wanted, but I thought it was a great season.”

Mason 12-5-12-23—52

Lakota East 2-13-12-7—34

MASON (20-2): Eddie Puisis 4 6 15, Carlos Lewis 2 2 6, Matt King 3 3 9, Noah Pedelty 4 2 10, Tanner Knue 3 6 12. Totals: 16-19-52

LAKOTA EAST (16-8): Jalen Peck 2 1 5, Jackson See 1 0 2, Evan Kuhlman 5 0 11, Kyrell Metts 1 0 2, Jarrett Cox 3 4 10, Alex Mangold 2 0 4. Totals: 14-5-34

3-pointers: M 1 (Puisis), L 1 (Kuhlman)

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