CINCINNATI, Ohio — It was senior night at Lakota East High School last night and the Thunderhawks were hoping to send the seniors off with not only a final win on their home floor but a Greater Miami Conference crown. However, standing in their way was an Oak Hills team that wanted to keep their conference title hopes alive with a victory.
In the first meeting between the two teams this season, Oak Hills came out on top behind big nights from junior guard Austin Dennis and senior guard Kelen Dietrich. The two combined for 42 points as the Highlanders took down Lakota East by a final count of 53-46. In that game though, the Thunderhawks were missing senior guard Kaden Fuhrmann — a double figure scorer for Head Coach Clint Adkins.
This time around, Fuhrmann was ready to go and both teams were mostly healthy. Lakota East was without sophomore guard Kobe Peck who has been out since early January with a leg injury. The good news though for the Thunderhawks was that Nate Johnson, the GMC’s third leading scorer, was available after missing their previous game against Princeton with the flu.
With the conference title at stake, Lakota East couldn’t have asked for a better start. The Thunderhawks got off to a 15-0 run that featured Nate Johnson getting a steal on one end and taking it the length of the floor for a thunderous slam. Their run finally came to a close late in the period when Oak Hills junior guard Adonis Caneris drop in a layup. However, Johnson quickly responded by burying a mid-range pull up jumper as the frame came to a close and pushed Lakota East out to an early 17-2 lead after one.
After a slow start for Oak Hills on the offensive end, it was the Thunderhawks who faced their own struggles in the second quarter. The Highlanders limited Lakota East to just four points in the quarter and while Oak Hills didn’t have a scoring explosion in the frame by any means, they did win the quarter and hoped to carry that momentum into the second half. Nonetheless, it was the Thunderhawks who entered the locker room with the lead over the Highlanders, 21-10.
In the third quarter, Caneris quickly dropped in five points, including a corner triple, to make it just a two possession game. But Johnson and senior forward Alex Mangold — a Nova Southeastern commit– responded with back to back buckets to halt the potential run from Oak Hills. The Thunderhawks slammed the door shut on the stanza when Johnson delivered a ridiculous behind the back pass to Mangold for an easy score. The highlight reel dime allowed Lakota East to extend their lead as they entered the fourth with a 30-17 advantage.
In the final eight minutes of the contest, both teams saw their highest scoring quarter. The teams combined for 35 points overall in the period after scoring just 47 points in the first 24 minutes. However, sophomore guard Jadon Coles‘ eight point frame combined with a few others pitching in wound up being too much for the Highlanders to overcome. Lakota East closed out Oak Hills by a final score of 48-34 and were able to claim their second consecutive GMC title.
Leading the way for the Thunderhawks was Nate Johnson. The 6-foot-3 junior come off of the bench on senior night and dropped in 12 points on 4-6 shooting. Senior guard Trevor Howard and Jaden Coles added eight points a piece in the win as well.
As for the Highlanders, it was Adonis Caneris as the lone Highlander to score over double figures as he finished with 11 points in 28 minutes of action.
Looking ahead, both teams have just one regular season game left with postseason play looming. Lakota East will head over to Lakota West to take on the Firebirds in a GMC showdown. Oak Hills will battle it out with Northern Kentucky signee Trey Robinson and the Big Blue of Hamilton to conclude the season.