Mount Notre Dame, Lakota West meet Monday for first time since controversial state final finish


Lakota West’s Alexis Rogers (Duke) and MND’s Gabby Smith (Vanderbilt) square off Monday. (Photos by Gary Housteau)

The controversy has subsided, but the memory of last year’s Division I state girls’ basketball final – won by Mount Notre Dame on a questionable shot at (or after) the buzzer – hasn’t been forgotten. Both teams and coaches moved on after the game. Some fans haven’t. Monday the two tangle again at MND. It is
the first time the teams have met since March. Talk about a big game.

The controversy has subsided, but the memory of last year’s Division I state girls’ basketball final hasn’t been forgotten.

Cincinnati Mount Notre Dame guard Kathryn Reynolds made a layup as time expired to give the Cougars a 69-67 win over rival West Chester Lakota West. The shot would later be analyzed by hoops fans and the media – but it never changed the fact MND won its third consecutive state title.

But, both teams and coaches moved on after the game. There were still fans and opposing players who made comments last summer to the teams. But, MND coach Dante Harlan and Lakota West coach Andy Fishman have too much respect for each other to dwell on the past.

Maybe that’s why neither balked at continuing the regular-season rivalry by scheduling Monday night’s (Jan. 12) 7:30 game at MND. It is the first time the teams have met since last March.

“Last season is in the past and we should never be blinded or preoccupied,” Fishman said. “Each season is new. Nine of last year’s players are history and this year’s team is creating a new history for itself this season.”

The expected sold-out game is just the start of a significant week for both games. Both teams will participate in the Classic in the Country VI Challenge next weekend (Jan. 17) at Berlin Hiland.

Harlan said Monday night is the start of a tough week for the Cougars and he’d rather focus on the present instead of the past.

“I’m not going to talk about last year’s game,” Harlan said. “It’s over and done with as far as I am concerned. The past is the past and we have to concentrate on this year.”

MND (11-0), ranked fifth in the ESPN Rise Fab 50 national rankings, is off to another impressive start.

Senior guards Gabby Smith (Vanderbilt), Kendall Hackney (Southern California) and Ashley Fowler (Ohio) are making significant contributions.

Hackney was the MVP of a Pickerington holiday tournament and most recently had 15 points in a win over Sylvania Northview.

“She’s in her groove right now,” Harlan said.

Fowler is averaging five assists for the Cougars while Smith averages a team-high 14.9 points. Smith said she is looking forward to facing Lakota West senior Alexis Rogers (Duke) – both of whom play during the summer in AAU tournaments.

Smith knows both teams are still aware of the state final last season and realizes the intensity will be strong from the beginning.

“Lakota West is a game that I know both teams look forward to because the environment is always really hyped and exciting,” Smith said.

The Firebirds (8-1 as of Jan. 9) are led by Rogers, who is averaging about 13 points and more than nine rebounds. She is the focal point this season after the graduation of All-American forward Amber Gray (Tennessee).

Harlan insists MND won’t double-team Rogers, but is aware what the Firebirds can do in transition.

“I know they like to get a lot of points in transition,” Harlan said. “They also like to come out and apply pressure.”

Senior guard Tessa Elkins (Murray State) is averaging 11 points and six rebounds. Senior forward Brittany Harriel (Southeast Missouri State) averages about nine points and six rebounds.

Fishman said his players are looking forward to playing in front of a packed MND gym.

“All of us realize that this game brings awesome attention to the high quality of girls basketball in Cincinnati,” Fishman said. “Our student athletes can recognize this not only by the excitement during the game, but by how others continue to bring the games up before and after they are played.”

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