Story by John Blake
Photos and video by Larry Bennet
Crunch time is nothing new to Westlake.
Trailing by three late in the fourth quarter and tied with under a minute left, the Demons had things right where they wanted. Sophomore guard Taylor Hood sized up her defender at the top of the key, drove the lane and was fouled with four seconds left.
Hood connected on one of two at the free throw line to give visiting Westlake a 37-36 girls basketball win over Olmsted Falls Wednesday night in the Southwestern Conference opener for both teams.
After Westlake forced an Olmsted Falls turnover, Hood brought the ball up the court with about 20 seconds left and everyone on the edge of their seats.
"That's the play we like to do," said Westlake head coach Chip Weiss. "We try to find a mismatch and we found that she had the best mismatch.
"She gets double teamed there and we have two great three-point shooters out on the wing, so we just make sure we get the last shot. We practice that too.
"We've been in close games all year long," he added.
It was a frustrating finish for the Bulldogs, who battled back to take a 36-33 lead, their first of the game since it was 2-0, with 3:51 remaining.
Westlake jumped out to a 10-2 advantage in the opening quarter. Olmsted Falls, now 1-2, stayed within striking distance all game but just couldn't close the gap until midway through the fourth.
Then all the hard work slipped through its fingertips.
"I think the hardest thing for me tonight was we fought back and we battled and we got a little bit of a lead," said Olmsted Falls head coach Matt Fulton.
"We didn't execute at the end of the game. We had the ball with the game tied and we turned it over. For most of the game, whether it was Westlake making us panic or us not executing our own stuff, we just didn't have our best game tonight.
"When you don't even run your own stuff well, you're going to have a hard time winning," he said.
Westlake's senior guards Kelly Laraway and Corinne Furci each scored a team-high 10 points. Furci's biggest points came with just 40 seconds left when she drained a three-pointer to tie it at 36-36.
"It's huge. That makes the game," said Weiss, whose team improved to a perfect 4-0. "Some how, some way we find a way to get it done."
Junior guard Allison Collins recorded seven and sophomore forward Monica Fury tallied six. Olmsted Falls junior guard Kerri Gasper scored 11 of her game-high 15 points in the second half. Senior forward Marie Jacobs finished with eight points, including a pair of three-pointers.
As has been the case in the Bulldogs' two losses this season, inconsistency and ineffectiveness at key times proved costly.
"I would hope that we would execute," said Fulton. "That's the disappointment for me.
"These kids play a lot of basketball. I don't know if we're overcoaching them or what we're doing. It's coming down to them just not making plays that I know they can make.
"We shot ourselves in the foot tonight for our goal of trying to win the conference but we'll have to readjust," he said.
Westlake led, 13-5, after the first quarter, 19-14, at halftime, and 29-27 after three quarters.
Olmsted Falls travels to North Olmsted, while Westlake hosts Amherst in SWC action on Saturday.
(You can follow John Blake on Twitter @johnblake02. Follow our website too @BeAFanatic.)