Toledo Start shocks Lakota West with fourth quarter rally


Yolanda Richardson had 15 points in the upset win over Lakota West

There will be no Lakota West-Mount Notre Dame rematch in the Division I state final Saturday. Toledo Start made sure of that. The Spartans capped a furious fourth quarter rally by holding off Lakota West 61-56 in a D-I state semifinal Friday at OSU’s Schottenstein Center. What a game.

COLUMBUS – There will be no rematch between Cincinnati Mount Notre Dame and West Chester Lakota West in the Division I girls basketball state championship on Saturday. Toledo Start made sure of that.

Taking its first lead in the fourth quarter, Start capped a furious rally and final eight-minute onslaught with a stunning 61-56 win over the Firebirds in a D-I state semifinal at Ohio State’s Schottenstein Center.

The victory continues a magical run for the Spartans who up until this season had never won a district title. Now they are one win away from a state championship.

Start plays three-time defending champion MND at 8:30 p.m. Saturday.

“That was a war,” Start head coach Bob Brown said. “We kept fighting and fighting, even when it looked like we were in trouble. We’re fortunate to come out on top. I’m happy right now, I don’t what else to say.”

Start had plenty of heroes, but the main ones were 6-1 senior Yolanda Richardson, 6-2 sophomore Azia Bishop and 5-6 sophomore Maleeka Kynard.

Richardson, headed to the University of Toledo, scored 15 points, grabbed five rebounds and dominated inside. She kept the Spartans close in the first half.

Bishop was Richardson’s sidekick in the paint. She scored 10 points and hauled in a game-high 11 rebounds.

Said Brown: “She was a stud.”

Kynard added 19 points and turned in the game’s biggest defensive play, stealing the ball with :01.9 seconds left and Start up three. It was her only steal of the game but came at the most important time. Kynard was fouled and hit the ensuing two free throws for the final margin. She was 4-for-4 from the free throw line in the final 29 seconds.

“I’ve said from the begining that (Kynard) and (Tay’ler) Mingo from Regina are the best guards in the state,” Brown said. “I know Mt. Notre Dame has some great players too, but she keeps stepping up and stepping up. All these kids keep stepping up.”

Lakota West took a 30-24 lead into halftime and scored the first five points of the third quarter to take its biggest lead, 35-24. The Firebirds led 44-40 entering the fourth.

Then the fireworks started.

Start took its first lead, 47-46, with six minutes left on two free throws by Bishop. Richardson added two more foul shots on the next possession to give the Spartans a 49-46 cushion. The game was frenetic after that.

Lakota West clawed back to within one at 56-55 on two Alexis Rogers free throws with :41 seconds to go, but that’s as close as it got.

The Spartans hit 14-of-16 free throws down the stretch to punch their ticket.

“We’ve struggled at the free throw line but in the big games when we’ve needed them we’ve hit them,” Brown said. “I didn’t know we were going to hit them tonight but we did.”

Start shot an impressive 61-percent from the floor for the game (19-of-31) and outrebounded the Firebirds 25-20.

Everything Start did was needed to fend off Rogers. A Duke recruit, Rogers scored a game-high 27 points and had eight rebounds.

“The Rogers girl is a beast,” Brown said. “We had no answer for her. We tried to put Yolanda on her and then we tried to beat her up a little bit with Tiffani (Blackman). We tried to force her left and she just went left. We tried to play her straight up, we tried to double her. Obviously she’s star.

“We just buckled down at the end.”

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