Story by Jim Horvath
Photos and video by Larry Bennet
Down just three points at halftime, Avon Lake got a pair of 3-pointers to start the third quarter and looked poised to pull off an upset of twice-beaten Westlake.
That’s when the wheels came off for the Shoregals.
Westlake turned up the defensive pressure and started to convert turnovers into points. An 11-0 run ensued, and the Demons kept pace in the Southwestern Conference race with a 44-30 win Wednesday night.
The Demons moved to 13-2 overall and 8-1 in the SWC, one game behind state-ranked Midpark. The Meteors destroyed Olmsted Falls, 78-26, to stay unbeaten in the league at 9-0.
Avon Lake, now 6-9 overall and 5-4 in the league, took an early 13-10 lead after one quarter of play as senior guard Lacy LeDuc scored nine of her team’s points.
“This first quarter was pretty ugly for us,” said Westlake head coach Chip Weiss. “It wasn’t the game we normally play.
“Defensively, we allowed them to do anything they wanted,” Weiss said of his team’s early struggles. “We didn’t put enough pressure on them. We were very lackadaisical, and we didn’t put any pressure at all on Lacy. She had too many open shots right away.”
Westlake picked up the pace from there.
The Demons used an 8-0 run to take an 18-13 lead and never trailed the rest of the way. But despite seven turnovers in the quarter, the Shoregals kept things close before halftime on a jumper and two free throws from sophomore Emily Nicholas.
Senior Katie Carroll scored inside to get Westlake off on the right foot to start the second half. That’s when Shoregal junior Anelise Kollias nailed a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to two, 22-20.
That would be as close as the visitors would come to regaining the lead the rest of the way.
A Lauren Wichman jumper and a fast break bucket for two by Carroll pushed the Demon lead back up to six. Sophomore Kim Zelonis countered with another trey for Avon Lake, but the turnovers continued to mount the Shoregals.
Eight turnovers later, they found themselves looking up from a 35-23 deficit. A fast break layup by Maggie Zimmerman closed out Westlake’s 11-0 run to start the fourth quarter. From there, the Demon defense allowed just seven points the rest of the way to help close out the win.
“One of our goals was to come out for the third quarter and play well the first three to four minutes,” said Shoregals head coach Dave Zvara. “Well, we did that for about two minutes. Then we started making mistakes.
“We talked about three things at halftime: playing smart, shooting and playing with effort. We didn’t play very smart because we took the ball right into their trap, threw the ball away and gave them easy layups.
“We didn’t take bad shots, but we weren’t shooting with confidence. I see these girls in practice shoot the ball and do a nice job, but tonight it looked like we were thinking before we shot. Then toward the end, I thought our effort dropped on defense and we gave them some easy baskets,” he added.
In that fourth quarter, Carroll scored off a steal to make it 40-25. Her score was quickly followed by another converted steal by Zimmerman, and it was 42-25 with 6:02 remaining.
“The biggest thing is we started playing aggressive ball,” Weiss said of his team’s strong second-half performance.
“We were too passive today,” Weiss said. “For some reason, we didn’t put too much pressure on Lacy early when she had the ball. But then we denied her the ball, and that allowed us to force three turnovers right away.”
Unofficially, Avon Lake turned the ball over 13 times in the second half and 25 times for the game. The Demons’ D was effective on LeDuc, who didn’t score again after her big first quarter. As a result, the Shoregals made just 12 of 45 shots in the game. Nicholas was next for Avon Lake in the scoring column with six points.
On the Westlake side of things, it was a banner night for Carroll.The Quinnipiac University recruit scored 13 points and pulled down 14 rebounds, while senior teammate Rachael Trujillo had 13 points and nine boards.
Zimmerman chipped in with nine points for the Demons, while Wichman added seven. On the boards for Avon Lake, Nicholas, Kollias and Sarah Alflen each had six rebounds.
“Katie did a great job on the boards for us, plus she didn’t get into foul trouble tonight,” Weiss said. “That’s the biggest difference for her right now. She’s been in a lot of foul trouble this season, but now she’s disciplined herself to stay out of those situations. She figured out that she needed to quit trying to block shots, plus she’s worked to get herself in better position defensively. That’s helped her a lot.
“Right now, we’ve just got to stay healthy,” Weiss said. “These are the dog days for basketball teams. It’s been a long season already, so we just need to stay healthy and do the things we need to do to be ready for tournament time.”
Westlake will host Berea Saturday afternoon in another SWC contest. The Braves lost at Amherst Wednesday night, 45-35.
Avon Lake will host the Comets, while league-leading Midpark is at North Olmsted on Saturday afternoon as well.