For the better part of the first half, North Olmsted and Westlake looked like mirror images of each other. Both teams were pressing and pushing the ball up the floor at a frantic pace, but not doing much at the offensive end of the floor.
The song remained the same in the second half except for one thing:
The Demons found their scoring touch.
Up by only seven at halftime, Westlake went on a 13-2 run to start the second half and rolled to a 57-37 win over the Eagles Saturday. The win kept the Demons perfect on the season at 7-0 and tied with Midpark atop the Southwestern Conference at 4-0.
North Olmsted dropped to 0-4 in the SWC after scoring just seven points in the third quarter and getting outscored in the second half 32-19.
“The second half was big for us,” said Westlake head coach Chip Weiss, whose team got outscored 10-3 in the final three-plus minutes of the second quarter.
“We were forcing turnovers, but we weren’t doing anything with those opportunities in the second quarter,” Weiss said. “Our offense actually gave them an advantage because we were missing so many shots.
“They got the ball, transitioned very well and scored off of that. Our offense was their offense,” he added.
Down 22-8, the Eagles started chipping away at the Demon lead. Senior Megan Branchick started things off with a short jumper, prompting a Westlake timeout. Moments later, the Demons’ Katie Carroll left the game with her third foul.
Branchick scored again to cut the lead to 10 at 22-12. A Rachael Trujillo 3-pointer stemmed the tide for the Demons, but Branchick scored inside and hit a free throw for a conventional 3-pointer to keep the deficit at 10.
A Tara Kelly fast break hoop and a free throw by Mackenzie Lynes closed out the half and had the Eagles within striking distance. That’s as close as they would get, however, as the Demons came out a determined bunch in the second half.
Carroll got things started with a bucket inside before leaving the game with her fourth foul. Her absence didn’t slow her teammates one bit, as Maggie Zimmerman nailed a 3-pointer and another mid-range jumper for a 32-20 Westlake lead.
The run continued as Rachel Collins nailed a trey, Trujillo hit a free throw and Zimmerman got a steal for two. That made it 38-20, and a 10-4 run in the fourth quarter put the game away for the Demons.
“I was very proud of our bench today,” Weiss said. “They did a nice job. We had some people step up at times for us, and we needed that with Katie out. And Maggie, we kept calling plays for her and getting her some looks. When she relaxes and gets herself set, she can shoot the ball very well.
“When we were up 17-4 early, we didn’t take advantage at all. We settled for outside shots, and that’s what helped them get back into the game. But in the second half, we did a much better job of controlling the ball and making them play defense,” he added.
Zimmerman led all scorers with 21 points. Carroll, despite foul trouble, added eight points, as did point guard Liz Kobe. Trujillo and Collins each chipped in with six points.
North Olmsted was led by Branchick, who poured in 13 points. Kelley was the only other Eagle to hit double figures, scoring 11 points.
“They converted their shots and we didn’t,” said Eagles head coach Cheryl Bansek. “We really brought up our intensity in the second quarter with our physicality and our hustle play. I think it showed in the second quarter that we wanted it.
“In the third and fourth quarters, they just out-did us and scored 32 points,” she said.
Despite having only one win so far this season, Bansek said her team is continuing to improve. She said her team’s focus now needed to be on the next game, that coming Monday against Bay.
“For us, it’s a process. We’re looking to get better each game,” Bansek said. “I told the kids they can’t beat themselves up.You don’t have time to lay down, lick your wounds and feel sorry for yourselves. You’ve got to get right back up. We have a game with Bay on Monday, and we have to be ready for them.
“We’re at a different stage than Westlake is. We were in there with them for a while, and they were worried about us. They’re a good team, and when a good team is worried about you, it’s a good thing,” she added.
The Eagles will host the Rockets Monday, then come back the Wednesday after Christmas to host Cleveland Rhodes. They will return to SWC play Jan. 4 when they travel to Berea.
Westlake will host St. Joseph Academy Monday in its final game before Christmas. The Demons will travel to Hudson on Dec. 28 before resuming SWC play at home Jan. 4 against Brecksville.