Story by Jim Horvath
Photos and video by Larry Bennet
More times than not, a 28-point win over your main league rival and sole possession of first place would have a coach smiling from ear to ear.
But Saturday night, it was evident Midpark head coach Stephanie Mentz had higher aspirations for her Meteors in 2012.
Midpark, the defending Southwestern Conference champions, fought off visiting Westlake with a 10-0 run in the third quarter and rolled to a convincing 62-34 win. At the halfway point of the season, the Meteors find themselves at 9-1 overall and 6-0 in the SWC.
Westlake fell to 9-2 overall and 5-1 in the league in dropping its fourth-straight game to the Meteors. The previous loss came in last year’s Division I regional semifinal game.
“We did an alright job of pressuring the ball, but our weapons need to recognize that they’re bigger, faster and stronger at times,” Mentz said. “They tend to take plays off. Until we can understand that we can’t take plays off...”
The Meteors didn’t seem to take too many plays off in building a 38-23 halftime lead. Their 6-3 sophomore, Stasha Carey, had nine points and seven rebounds in the half, while Nebraska recruit Rachel Theriot and junior Korie Maryo each scored 10 points.
Theriot scored the opening bucket of the second half to give her team a seemingly comfortable 17-point lead. That’s when the Demons made their run.
Senior Katie Carroll started things off with a bucket inside, then classmate Rachael Trujillo drove to the hoop for two more as Westlake cut the lead to 40-27. After a Demon timeout, Carroll scored on a jumper to cut the Meteor lead to 11.
“We should have continued to build that lead,” Mentz said. “We should never give up possessions and allow them to come down and convert.”
Sensing their coach was less than pleased, the Meteors immediately picked up the pace.
Carey took the ball inside for a score, then fellow forward Lexi Hassing went inside. Back came Carey with two more scores in close, then guard Brittany Smith got a steal for two. Just like that, Midpark’s lead had grown to 21 at 50-29.
Carroll scored on a drive to stop the bleeding, but a 10-1 run to start the fourth quarter all but put the game in the win column for the Meteors. Hassing had a pair of buckets during the run, her second making it 60-33 with just under two minutes left.
“We don’t rebound,” Mentz said of her team’s momentary lapse. “I’m disappointed. One our weak points right now is not controlling the glass and giving up offensive rebounds. We’re averaging 10 per game, and we wanted to cut that in half tonight.
“We gave up 10 in the first half. So, until we can clean up the glass, which means everybody has to be able to box out and find the ball, someone is going to catch us. Someone’s going to catch us being lazy. It’s going to cost us,” she said.
According to the unofficial stats, Midpark still managed a slight edge on the boards, 35-33. Defensively, however, the Meteors put relentless pressure on the ball out on the perimeter and were hard to score on inside with Carey guarding the hoop.
The end result? Westlake turned in its worst shooting performance of the season, shooting just 24 percent after making 15 of 63 shots from the floor. The Demons failed to hit a field goal in the fourth quarter.
“We didn’t shoot the ball well at all tonight,” admitted Demons head coach Chip Weiss. “That’s probably one of the worst shooting performances we’ve had.
“What really hurt us at the beginning was having a couple of our shots blocked,” Weiss said. “We haven’t had that happen to us yet this year. I think we tried to adjust to that, and that’s probably why we weren’t confident from there.”
Carroll, a Quinnipiac recruit, led the Demons with 16 points while hauling down 10 rebounds. Trujillo came up with 13 points and 11 boards, but that was pretty much it for the scoring as far as Westlake was concerned.
It was a different story for the Meteors.
Carey led all scorers with 17 points while pulling down 12 rebounds and blocking four shots. Theriot just missed a triple double with 14 points, nine rebounds and 10 assists, while Hassing and Maryo chipped in with 12 and 10 points, respectively.
“Stasha played balanced and played confident from the opening tip,” Mentz said. “She didn’t take plays off. Defensively, she did a much better job of using her length and her size, along with her communication skills.
“I thought Korie stepped up and played a lot better today. There was a good energy out of her. She ran the floor and got out ahead, though we’re still struggling with that as a team,” she said.
Mentz admitted she was pleased with the win, but did so with a look at what lies ahead for her team.
“If you’re going to be 30 points better than your opponent each night, I think you have a pretty good team,” Mentz said. “So I’m not going to take that away from them. We have to work harder, and we have to get better, because before you know it we’re going to be in post season play.
“We just had that conversation with our girls. Yeah, you’re good, but the second you start to accept that you’re good, you’re never going to get better. And if you’re not going to get better, then we’re not going to get out of here,” she added.
Weiss, despite the final score, felt his team had its chances.
“We missed a lot of opportunities tonight,” Weiss said. “Nothing fell for us. Foul shots hurt us again tonight (three of 10), and Maryo got us with 10 points early in the game, and those were all on transition layups. We didn’t get back fast enough.
“We turned the ball over a little bit there in the third quarter, but overall we handled the press very, very well. We knew it was coming, and they took it off because we were beating it. But we’ve got to score off of that.
“And Carey was a difference maker for them. She had a really good game tonight,” he added.
Westlake is off until Saturday afternoon when the Demons travel to Olmsted Falls. Midpark will travel to neighborhood rival Berea the same day.