Playing on the district stage for the first time in 24 years and facing defending state champion Lakota West, the Tecumseh Arrows showed no signs of nerves or timidity in racing out to a nine-point lead.
But the Firebirds never flinched and sent wave after wave of pressure at Tecumseh, riding it to 68-54 victory for their third consecutive district title Saturday afternoon at Harrison High School.
The win was the 15th in a row for West (25-1) and sends the Firebirds into the regional semifinals, where they will face Springboro (23-3) at 6:15 p.m. on Wednesday at Fairmont’s Trent Arena.
“Let’s go ahead and give Tecumseh some credit, their kids and their coaching staff,” West coach Andy Fishman said. “I thought they played very, very hard. They knew exactly what they wanted to do, they were organized, they were disciplined most of the time, and they came out thinking they had a chance to win. But we felt ultimately our style of play would wear them down.”
West’s relentless defense forced Tecumseh (22-4) into 29 turnovers while only committing 10 fouls.
“We’ve definitely been focusing on that this year, and it’s definitely improved since last year,” said senior guard Nia Staples, who led West with 22 points. “We’ve been working on our trapping and reading the passes and not going for the cheap fouls and bailing them out.”
Senior guard Danielle Wells added 21 points, including the only 3-pointer the Firebirds made in 12 attempts. Sophomore Abby Prohaska chipped in 12 points to go with her game-high five steals.
After missing 11 of their first 12 shots to fall behind 11-2, West outscored the Arrows 24-10 in the second quarter to build a 35-25 advantage.
Arrows senor forward Lindsey Nartker had a double-double by the break and finished with 27 points and 16 rebounds, both of which were game highs. But she was the only Tecumseh player who attempted a free throw, going 5 of 6 from the line.
After West built a 17-point lead midway through the fourth quarter, the Arrows sliced it to six on a 3-pointer by senior guard Danielle Franklin with 1:30 to go. But Wells answered with a layup to push the lead to eight, and it was a parade to the free-throw line after that.
“We didn’t want them to come in here and play scared, and I don’t think they did,” Tecumseh coach Danielle Thomas said. “I told them they’d have no regrets if they showed up and played their butts off. They can play with anybody when they decide to do that.”
West extended its tournament winning streak to 12 dating back to last year while winning the seventh district championship in the 19-year history of the school.
“Celebrate for a moment that we just won a district championship because these things don’t grow on trees and we can’t take them for granted,” Fishman said. “This is a big deal. We’ve got to really, really embrace this feeling. That’s the first rung of the ladder. We’ve got to climb another step on Wednesday.”
Springboro 57, Mount Notre Dame 44: Senior guard Kelly Wurth scored a game-high 22 points to lead the Panthers to their first district championship since 2011 in Saturday’s first game.
Wurth scored eight of Springboro’s first 10 points of the third quarter, and the Panthers outscored the Cougars 19-7 in the fourth for their 16th consecutive victory.
Sophomore guard Jordan Diehl added nine points and eight rebounds, while junior forward Haylie Crouch had game-highs with nine rebounds and four assists.
Lakota West 11-24-16-17—68
TECUMSEH (22-4) — Caroline Smith 2 0 5, Lindsey Nartker 11 5 27, Corinne Thomas 3 0 8, Danielle Franklin 4 0 10, Presley Griffitts 2 0 4. Totals: 22-5-54
LAKOTA WEST (25-1) — Danielle Wells 6 8 21, Nia Staples 8 6 22, Lexi Wasan 2 2 6, Abby Prohaska 6 0 12, Bryana Henderson 1 0 2, Madisyn Oxley 0 1 1, Alexandra Haar 1 0 2. Totals: 25-17-68
3-pointers: T 5 (Thomas 2, Franklin 2, Smith), L 1 (Wells)