HARRISON – Competing for a District Championship is nothing new for West Chester Lakota West. But in claiming its third straight title Saturday the Lady Firebirds took the road less traveled.
Katie Rhodes, that is.
Clinging to a 32-31 lead over Chaminade-Julienne with four minutes left in the game, Rhoads came off the bench and hit a three-pointer sparking a 12-4 run to knock off the Lady Eagles 44-35 at Harrison High School.
“She comes in and plays excellent position defense and then knocks down a three. She takes care of the ball and makes great decisions,” said Lakota West head coach Andy Fishman.
The Lady Firebirds found themselves in foul trouble in the second half and had to rely on their bench down the stretch to seal the win. Lakota West (23-1) got 15 points from its bench in the game.
“We had a game paln for if we were in foul trouble and a game plan if we were not so we had go to the game plan where we got into foul trouble and we had a lead,” Fishman said. “We felt like we had better depth and we were going to use that to our advantage. When you get into foul trouble, you have to use your depth in a different kind of way. I think that is the difference in a game like this.”
He added, “Some people want to talk about certain kids on our team and how great they are – and they are great. But our greatness was on the bench in this game.”
Forward Amber Gray, who was named to the McDonald’s All-American game this week, netted 14 points and pulled down 12 rebounds but had to watch from the bench picking up her third foul late in the game.
“I got into foul trouble and the team stepped up when we needed them to step up,” Gray said. “We knew from the beginning that no matter what we were going to do what we had to do to win this game.”
Lakota West led 26-22 at the break but was nearly shut out in the third quarter getting just four points as C-J (19-5) took a 29-28 led into the final frame.
The two teams traded leads back and forth three times in the fourth quarter until Rhoads sunk the three ball giving Lakota West the momentum to pull out the win.
“I thought they did a good job with their subs and got their lineup in with their three best shooters,” C-J head coach Marc Greenberg said. “They were able to get that (three-pointer) and get a few baskets to spread us out a little bit.
“I think both teams played well and played hard. But unfortunately we didn't hit as many shots as they did. It was a great game.”
Samarie Walker led C-J with 20 points and 11 rebounds but went just 4-for-10 from the charity stripe.
“Samarie played well. She stepped up like she usually does when we play better competition but a lot of that is because everybody on our team was playing well,” said Greenberg.
C-J shot 72 percent from the floor while Lakota West shot just 40 percent.
“There are so many little things to be great at this game and win a state championship. We’ve got to be good and we’ve got to be lucky. But we were very unlucky in this game,” Fishman said. “There were so many things that went against us in this game but the kids stepped up and they made the big plays when they needed to. That’s what champions do and that is why they’re district champions.”