Lakota West junior guard Abby Prohaska verbally committed to Notre Dame Tuesday night. (Photo courtesy of Jenny Walters Photography).

Lakota West victory over Walnut Hills propels Firebirds to regional final

KETTERING, Ohio -- The Lakota West girls' basketball team is going back to the regional final.

The Firebirds continue to show why they are one of the premier programs in Ohio every season, and Wednesday's 60-31 victory over Walnut Hills was an excellent illustration of their ineffable It factor.

"Energy," Lakota West coach Andy Fishman said. "A lot of positive energy with these girls. …I thought we were able to dictate the pace almost immediately."

Lakota West defeated Walnut Hills in a Division I regional semifinal at Trent Arena. The Firebirds (25-2) advance to play either Mason or Mount Notre Dame at 7 p.m. Saturday at Trent Arena.

This is the fifth consecutive season a Division I area girls' basketball team will be in the state Final Four in Columbus.

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Lakota West is back in the regional final for the second time in three years. The Firebirds were the regional runner-up in 2016.

Senior forward Jasmine Ballew had a game-high 15 points to go along with four rebounds and three assists; fellow senior forward Abby Prohaska (Notre Dame signee) had 13 points, five rebounds and four steals.

"This is what we play for all year," Ballew said.

Ballew said she didn't look at the scoreboard early in the first quarter. The Firebirds were all business, and their defense had outstanding ball pressure all night.

Fishman went into the locker room during the postgame and addressed his team with glee.

"This group right here doesn't want this season to end," he said.

No doubt. Walnut Hills committed four turnovers in a little more than three minutes to open the game, and the Firebirds took advantage.

Lakota West led Walnut Hills 21-7 at the end of the first quarter. Prohaska had eight points in the first quarter including a layup before the buzzer sounded. Sophomore forward Nevaeh Dean's 3-pointer at the 5:53 mark of the second quarter extended the Firebirds' lead to 27-7.

Three seniors -- Prohaska, Oxley and guard Sarah Jones -- played in their fourth regional tournament. All three have appeared in every one of the Firebirds' regional games played during their tenure.

Entering Wednesday, Prohaska had been a starter in each of the five regional games averaging 12 points while contributing to her career total of over 1,000 points.

Walnut Hills (25-2), which had an 18-game winning streak snapped, had the best record in program history and made its second regional tournament appearance.

"They are the best team in school history," Walnut Hills coach Adam Lazar said. "So that's what will be remembered more than what just happened there."

Sophomore guard Sean Kelly Darks had a team-high 14 points for Walnut Hills Wednesday night.

Walnut Hills defeated McAuley 60-57 March 3 at Princeton to win its second district title in program history and the first since 2010.