Story by Jim Horvath
Photos and video by Larry Bennet
Things couldn't have looked any more bleak for the Westlake girls basketball team Saturday night.
The Demons had made just one field goal in the first half. They were getting pounded on the boards to the tune of 25-12. Then late in the third quarter, Olmsted Falls sophomore Kara Marshall nailed back-to-back 3-pointers to give the visiting Bulldogs a 26-19 lead.
The fourth quarter, however, proved to be a totally different ballgame.
The Westlake defense pitched a shutout in the final eight minutes of play, and Corinne Furci and Taylor Hood capped off an 11-0 run to give the Demons the improbable 30-26 win in a Southwestern Conference contest.
Westlake, now 12-1 overall and 6-1 in the SWC, made only five baskets the entire game, turned the ball over 17 times and got out-rebounded 32-20. The only weapon the Demons had left was their defense, and it went to work in the fourth quarter.
The Bulldogs managed to get off just five shots in the quarter and turned the ball over eight times against Westlake's full-court pressure. The Demons, despite struggling mightily all night on offense, managed to get the ball to the rim and draw some fouls.
Free throws from Monica Fury and Furci got the home team back to within three points, 26-23, with 4:48 still to play. A Hood steal led to a fast break hoop from junior Allison Collins, and it was a one-point game with 3:36 remaining in regulation.
Meanwhile, the defense was putting the clamps on Falls junior guard Kerri Gasper, who led the Bulldogs with 10 points on the night. The Demons' pressure also forced the rest of Gasper's teammates into some tough shots, none of which managed to fall through the net.
"Our defense really stepped up, and we had to," admitted Westlake head coach Chip Weiss.
"We knew we had to shut down No. 22 (Gasper), that was the biggest thing. We went out there and out-hustled them, I thought. We got a lot of 50-50 balls because we were more aggressive, and we boxed out under the boards. In the first half, they killed us on the boards, and that hurt us bad.
"I thought we really kept them down, and they panicked a little bit. They rushed some shots that were out of their range. On the other hand, we've been in this situation so many times this year, we understood what was going on," he said.
With 1:32 left on the clock, the Demons worked the ball inside, then kicked it out to Furci in the left corner. The senior didn't hesitate, her 3-pointer giving Westlake a 28-26 lead.
Olmsted Falls missed its final shot of the game on a drive to the hoop with just under 53 seconds left. Sophomore guard Rebecca Essig got the rebound, but the Demons were called for a charging foul with 28.9 ticks left. That gave the Bulldogs one last chance to either tie the game or regain the lead.
But with just under 10 seconds left, Hood stole the ball and was fouled. She calmly stepped to the line and nailed both free throws to seal the deal for the Demons. It was a frantic ending to what had proven to be one of the most unusual basketball games of the season.
"I don't think anyone made baskets tonight," said Falls head coach Matt Fulton. "It was really probably a bad girls basketball game, to be completely honest.
"I think they had 17 free throws made, we had two. I don't even know how many they shot versus how many we shot, it's not anybody's fault. It was just, I think, a bad game. I'm not even sad that we won or lost, it was a bad game. I feel bad for the fans that had to come here and see nobody make baskets.
"They had five baskets and they win a game? It was just a bad game," he added.
Fulton's Bulldogs had the better shooting night, making 14 shots in 38 attempts. But Falls made just two of four free throws on the night, while the Demons cashed in with a 17-of-24 performance from the charity stripe.
"We had one field goal in the first half," Weiss said. "One basket, and we were tied at halftime (12-12). Go figure that. This game is nuts, it's crazy.
"In the fourth quarter, we did a great job switching things around defensively, which we normally don't do," Weiss revealed. "We kept switching, switching, switching, and the girls did a great job of communicating with each other. I thought that was a big part of our run at the end.
"Corrine hit the same shot against Highland the other night, and she made a big one at Olmsted Falls. She's been clutch for us this season. And Taylor hit two free throws this morning to help us win a free throw contest with our boys team. That's why she had a smile on her face when she went to the free throw line tonight," he said.
Fury came off the bench to lead the Demons with 10 points. Essig had seven points, while Furci and Collins each had five. Still, it proved just enough for the Demons to come up with another come-from-behind win.
"Westlake's come from behind so many times," said Fulton, whose team fell to 7-6 overall and 3-4 in the SWC. "They've played 13 games, and I think they've come from behind in eight of them at least. It's what they do, they know they can do it.
"Was it frustrating? I guess, but I think we did it to ourselves. We panicked. We probably had around 30 turnovers, and that's the frustrating part more than anything. We didn't close out, we didn't play well.
"We played good defense, but at the end of the game we certainly didn't execute anything on offense," he added.
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