Story by Jim Horvath
Photos and video by Larry Bennet
Three games into the 2012-13 basketball season, Chip Weiss’ game plan has remained consistent:
Press. Force turnovers. Run.
So far, that game plan has worked to perfection. Weiss’ Demons are 3-0 following a 66-48 win over Bay and Saturday night’s 59-47 decision at West Shore Conference favorite Avon. Their next step will be trying to implement the strategy in Southwestern Conference play, beginning Wednesday night at home against Olmsted Falls.
“Our defense is key,” admitted Weiss after Wednesday night’s win over the Rockets. The Demons pressured the young Rockets into 29 turnovers, 11 of those coming in the third quarter. That sparked a 16-0 Westlake run that transformed a minuscule 39-36 lead into a 55-36 blowout.
“Defense is our key to victory this year,” Weiss said. “Our defense is our offense, and that’s what we’re going to rely on all year. Our defense created a lot of opportunities for us tonight.
“We don’t have any one person who can do it all for us. Everybody we put out there, though, can shoot the basketball. We just needed to relax and take what they gave us. We don’t want to force anything, but if you’re open I want you to take the shot.
“We can do that. We just need to trust each other and have the confidence that we can knock down those jump shots,” he added.
The Demons got plenty of jump shots to go down in the second-half run. After making just three field goals in the second quarter, the Demons doubled up that total in the third. Four of those came in the final two-plus minutes.
Senior guard Maggie Zimmerman nailed a baseline junmper to get the run started. Fellow senior Liz Kobe followed up with a 3-pointer, then junior Corinne Furci hit a layup on a baseline drive to make it 46-36, Demons, with 1:15 left.
The quarter ended with senior Rachel Collins nailed a trey from the corner off an assist from Zimmerman. The run was far from over, however, as a Collins free throw and another Kobe 3-pointer pushed the Demon lead to 53-36. That prompted Bay head coach Chris Brewer to call a timeout with 7:14 still left to play.
Kobe came out of the break and hit a drive through the key, giving the Demons their bigest lead of the night. Bay freshman Nora Ziebarth stopped the bleeding with a bucket on a fast break with 5:52 remaining, but the damage had been done.
“We took care of the ball, aspecially against their press,” Weiss said. “That’s the first time in a long time that we’ve seen a 1-3-1 press.I thought we handled it very well and that our passing was efficient.”
On the other side of the coin, Brewed admitted that the Demon press worn down his squad in the second half.
“They just wore us down to the point where we were making unnecessary turnovers that we didn’t have early on in the game,” said Brewer, whose team fell to 0-2 on the young season.
“We got a little tired and started throwing the ball around the gym. That led to some very easy buckets for them, and boom...that score exploded back out. We tried calling timeout to settle them down, but I think we were a bit rattled at that point.
“But there were in the fourth quarter, still fighting and digging for everything we could get. We’re going to be alright. It’s good for us to go through some of these things. It’s a good learning experience and it’s going to pay off for us this season,” he added.
Bay, with only three seniors on the roster, was led by senior guard Claire Werblak’s 14 points and seven rebounds. Junior guard Rachel Jerome was next with 12 points, whie Ziebarth chipped in with eight points and eight rebounds.
Zimmerman led a balanced Westlake attack with 15 points, including three treys. Kobe was next with 14 points, while Rachel and Allison Collins contributed eight points each. Throw in another seven from Furci and six from junior Kelly Laraway, and Weiss had the type of offensive output he was looking for.
“Basically, we wanted to shoot the ball better than we did in our opener,” said Weiss, whose team made 26 of 71 field goal attempts for 37 percent.
“I thought we had better shot selection tonight,” Weiss said. “The other big thing was our rebounding. We got outrebounded by eight or nine in our last game. We wanted to hit the boards a lot harder, especially offensively.
“We had a lot of opportunities because of that tonight. I was glad to see that effort pay off,” he added.
The Demons, despite not having a player any taller than 5-9 in their rotation, won the board battle 35-25. Furci, at 5-5, led Westlake with nine rebounds, while Rachel Collins had six.
On Saturday, Westlake jumped out to a 13-8 first quarter lead at Avon behind a hot start from Zimmerman. The Demons went on a 14-5 rampage in the second quarter to build a commanding 27-13 halftime lead.
The Eagles made a run in the second half, but Kobe helped hold off the Eagles with 10 of her 11 points. Zimmerman finished with 20 points, while Allison Collins and Furci had eight and seven points, respectively.
Avon was led by Sierra Davidson and Erin Crotty, each of them scoring 15 points for the 1-2 Eagles.
Bay opens WSC play Wednesday night with a home game against Lakewood.
“This is a brutal four-game stretch for us to start the season,” said Brewer, whose team opened with a narrow loss to Lake Ridge Academy in the Great Lakes Classic at Midpark. “We came back with a road game here, then we have Lakewood and Rocky River back-to-back to start the conference season.
“We’ve been talking a loty about the character of our team and how we’re going to respond to that. But this was a game tonight where it could have been over in the second quarter when we were down 12-13 points.
“Westlake jumped out to a big lead, but we chipped back, chipped back and chipped back. At one point, we cut it back down to three points. But like I said, they just wore us down,” he added.