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Firebirds handle Fairfield, aim for Springboro and district title

MONTGOMERY– For the third time this year Lakota West dominated Fairfield, as they punched their ticket to the district finals.

Though they knew their history this season, the Firebirds came into Monday’s contest like they were playing the Indians for the first time. Which pay dividends as they jumped out to a 13-2 lead in the first quarter.

“I think that we had to start this game more uptempo than we wanted to,” said Lakota West head coach Andy Fishman. “Playing a league team for the third time is not ideal. It’s hard to do that, so we had to make sure we got the girls attention with our game plan.”

That plan worked to a ‘T’ as the Firebirds handled the Indians in the first half, en route to a 44-16 lead. Behind that lead? The usual suspects of Chance Gray, Kailyn Dudukovich and Nevaeh Dean– but also senior Kylie Zurlinden. 

The forward finished the game with her second double-double of the season (13 points and 10 rebounds). The first was against, you guessed it, the Fairfield Indians.

“I had fun,” said the senior with a smile following the Firebirds win. “I had a little bit of a rough start, but I came in and said ‘I gotta do, what I gotta do.’ I locked myself in there and said ‘it’s go time.”

Zurlinden’s pension for grabbing boards and getting buckets was on display as she did both just before the halftime buzzer.

That play also showed just how in-control the Firebirds were from the opening tip. Zurliden was joined by Dudukovich, Dean and Gray in the score chart, as they all finished with double digits. Gray finished with a game high of 16 points. 

“That three headed monster of ours, with Kailyn, Chance and Nevaeh had a really good compliment with Kylie finishing around the basket,” said Fishman.

Dean, above everyone else, got the Firebirds going. She scored eight points in the first period, on her way to a 10 point, six rebound and seven assist performance. 

“Nevaeh just does so much to make us go,” said the Firebirds head coach. “All throughout the season her offensive output has picked up. She has been a league leader in field goal percentage and in rebounding.”

Dean went a perfect 5-5 from the field. 

With the win, the Firebirds move from one familiar opponent to another– Springboro. West suffered a loss against the Panthers, the second game of the season.

“We are going to have to be ready,” said Fishman. “We obviously know what Springboro is about, we know who they are. We have to be far better prepared than we were the first time we played them. Obviously, the first time we played them we weren’t as well prepared as we needed to be, and weren’t as focused and energetic as we needed to be.”

The Panthers and Firebirds will meet this Saturday at 1:00 P.M. at Princeton for the district title. West last met Springboro in the postseason in 2016, when Lakota won en route to the regional championship game. 

One thing is for sure, this isn’t the same Lakota West team that Springboro saw at the beginning of the year.

“Oh for sure, 100 percent,” said Zurlinden when asked if her team has improved since the beginning of the season. “We’re ready. We’re excited. We’re ready to make a state run.”

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