Story by Jim Horvath
Photos and video by Larry Bennet
As Corinne Furci’s fast-break basket floated through the net, Westlake was right where it wanted to be against visiting Hudson. The Demons trailed by only four, 25-21, after getting hit with a 10-2 run to start the game.
But with just over three minutes left in the first half, the Explorers’ length and athleticism began to take over.
Hudson used an 8-0 run to push the lead back out to 12, then came out of the halftime locker room with a 9-0 spurt. Those two runs led to a convincing 71-51 win over the Demons Thursday night in non-conference hoops action.
“We got to within four points, then there was a guick turn around on their part,” admitted Demons head coach Chip Weiss, whose team fell to 8-4 on the season.
“We had some opportunities to score layups, and we missed a couple in that stretch,” Weiss said. “They were so fast getting back defensively, plus they made a couple of good jump shots.
“Then we started turning the ball over, and they converted quickly,” he added.
The 9-2 Explorers, whose only losses have been to powerhouses Twinsburg and Wadsworth, had turnover problems of their own in the first half against Westlake’s pressure defense. Hudson turned the ball over 15 times in the first 16 minutes, allowing the Demons to stay within striking distance.
But after Furci’s bucket, Hudson inbounded the ball and sped up the court. The result was a fast break hoop by 5-10 junior guard Jackie Ulmer and the start of an 8-0 Explorer run. Senior Hannah Boesinger hit a pair of free throws with 3:12 left in the half, then scored two straight buckets inside to push the Explorer lead to 33-21.
Westlake’s defense regrouped to shutout the visitors over the last two minutes of the half. Offensively, the Demons cut the deficit to eight as Furci and senior Liz Kobe each converted one-and-ones in the final 1:56.
“For us to be good, we have to bring a lot of energy and play really hard. I didn’t think we were doing that in the first half,” said Hudson hed coach Dennis Lawler of his team’s first-half effort.
“I thought Westlake was dictating a little bit more of the game, especially in the second half of that second quarter,” Lawler said. “They got back in it. But after that, I thought we a much better job of dictating the tempo and doing what we do.
“We like to run and press. In the first half, I didn’t think we mixed it up enough. We were shooting a lot of threes, and that’s really not our game. We’ve got to have some balance there,” he added.
That balance showed in the first three minutes of the second half.
On the first possession of the half, Ulmer stole the ball and went coast-to-coast for a layup to get the lead back out to 10 at 35-25. Kelly Gough, a 5-11 senior guard, scored another basket in transition and drew a foul in the process. Her free throw completed the 3-point play and gave Hudson its biggest lead of the night to that point at 38-25.
But the run wasn’t over. Ulmer hit a baseline jumper off an offensive rebound, forcing Westlake to call a timeout with 6:35 left on the third quarter clock. Senior Allison Zullo came right back with another score inside to make it 42-25, Explorers.
Westlake senior guard Rachel Collins hit a jumper to stop the bleeding, but the Demons found themselves in a hole they couldn’t crawl out of. A total of 10 turnovers in the third quarter alone only made matters worse for the home team.
“We had a tough start there in the second half,” Weiss admitted. “We just couldn’t get anything going. They jumped right on us, and that was it.
“They’re stronger, quicker and they make great passes. They beat us right down the floor, which we haven’t seen all year. They made some long passes down the floor and executed very well. They did a great job with their ball movement.
“Plus, they’re strong going to the hoop. There’s no fear in them at all,” he added.
Hudson’s obvious height advantage was another problem Westlake had to deal with. The Explorers won the board battle 38-26 and had numerous blocked shots when the Demons tried taking the ball inside. Boesinger led that effort with 10 rebounds.
Offensively, Hudson had a balanced attack, led by Ulmer’s 17 points. Boesinger and Zullo each chiped in with 15 points, while Margo Camp and 6-2 junior Kristen Mummy each added eight points to the Explorer effort.
“Boesinger has a full ride to Youngstown State, and she’s been a three-year starter for us,” Lawler said. “How she goes is how we go. She adds that toughness and is a great leader for us.
“I though Zullo played really well, and Ulmer had a big game both offensively and defensively. She has a really calming influence on our team and gets us into what we need to do,” he added.
Collins led the Westlake attack with 17 points, including three 3-pointers. Freshman forward Monica Fury came off the bench to score 12 points and grab seven rebounds, while Furci added eight points.
“This was a great experience for our team,” Weiss said. “I’m pround of our effort. Our kids never quit, and their effort was there the entire time. We’re not going to see this kind of pressure again for a long time.
“Our goal is to be where they’re at. We’ve got to get stronger and we’ve got to get quicker with the ball and move the ball like they do. We’ll learn from this, and we’ll get better,” he added.