By Ryan Kaczmarski
For the second postseason game in a row, the Westlake Demons girls basketball team held its opponent scoreless in the first quarter, and defeated the John Marshall Lawyers 63-27 Feb. 22 at Elyria Catholic High School in the first of two games played.
The Demons (14-6) jumped out to a 22-0 lead to end the first quarter. Senior guard Rachel Trujillo added two foul shots early in the second quarter to give Westlake a 24-0 lead before John Marshall senior Ayeesa Hughes put in a jumper to get the Lady Lawyers on the board for the first time, with 7:12 left in the first half.
For the second game in a row, Westlake’s bench saw plenty of action.
“It’s a good thing to get the younger kids some experience,” Westlake head coach Chip Weiss said. “It’s fun for them. We really got to get focused on next week.”
The Demons have not been challenged so far in this tournament, but Coach Weiss is not worried about his team’s focus.
“We’ll be OK right now,” he said. “We’re still (practicing) against our freshman boys team at the high school, so that’s still a great look for us.
“We’re still good,” he added. “We have a lot of legs that we’ve kept rested. We’re healthy, and that’s the biggest part right now.”
In the first quarter, Westlake came out with its pressure defense, and never let the Lawyers get into a rhythm all game long.
“That’s what sets the tempo,” Weiss said. “We (need to) win the first quarter, set the tempo, set the tone (of the game), protect the lead and just go after it from there.”
This victory comes off the big 71-24 win over Midview on Feb. 18, in which Trujillo scored 25 points to lead Westlake. This time around, it was junior guard Maggie Zimmerman who paced the Demons, scoring 11 of her game-leading 15 points in the first quarter.
“We just came out strong,” Zimmerman said. “We were all playing well, we worked the ball around well, we all had open shots and were able to knock them down.”
Also scoring in double digits for Westlake were seniors Trujillo and Lauren Wichman, with 10 points each. Senior forward Katie Carroll chipped in seven points, junior forward Olivia Bronikowski scored six, junior guard Rachel Collins scored five, junior guards Liz Kobe and Ally LaBroo each scored four, and senior forward Laura Rankin tallied two points.
For John Marshall, Hughes led in scoring with 14 points, followed by senior Ronisha Sanford with 11 and sophomore Wanda Wright with two.
The Demons led by as many as 42 points in this game, and that could be a recipe for complacency.
“We have to keep focus, keep determination, keep playing and keep moving as fast as we can,” Weiss said. “This is it. It’s down to the wire and this is what we’ve worked for (all season).
“It’s an exciting time of the year.”
In the second game of the Feb. 22 double-header, the Lorain Titans defeated the Olmsted Falls Bulldogs 64-49.
The Bulldogs (11-11) came out shooting, scoring first on a 3-pointer by junior guard Allison Gerycz to go up 3-0, then they pushed their lead to 5-2. That was the last time Olmsted Falls led the game. The Bulldogs did keep things close throughout the game. The Titans led 17-13 at the end of the first quarter, but pulled away in the second, going into halftime with a 37-26 lead over the Bulldogs.
Olmsted Falls chipped one point off Lorain’s lead by the end of the third quarter, and got its deficit down to nine points midway through the fourth – but the Bulldogs were not able to regain the lead.
“I thought both teams shot lights out in the first half,” Bulldogs head coach Matt Fulton said. “That’s the only thing that was going to keep us in the ballgame, was shooting the ball really well, and that’s why (the game) was as close as it was in the first half.”
The Bulldogs, a much smaller team physically compared to Lorain, were able to take away the inside shots of the Titans early in the game.
“We knew we couldn’t guard them man to man, so we worked on some different zones,” Fulton said. “We played as good as we could play.”
Bulldogs junior guard Jaime Fossen led all scoring with 20 points, including six 3-pointers (a personal best).
“It’s unreal,” Fulton said of Fossen’s performance. “She’s been shooting 29 percent for the season, and she went off in the first half.
“This was a great ‘program game’ for us,” he added. “These kids are going to come back (next season) and know that they can hang with a team like (Lorain). We have to get better, we know that.”
Also scoring for the Bulldogs were Gerycz with 11 points, freshman Kerri Gasper with eight, freshman Savanajh Black with six points and junior Jessica Koch with four.
Lorain had eight girls score in the game, led by Alexandria Harris with 18 points and Madison Stoyka with 14.
For the Bulldogs, this game ended an injury-riddled 2011-12 campaign, and Coach Fulton reflected on the ups and downs of this season.
“At one point in the season, we had five kids hurt out of our 12 (total),” he said. “We lost two starters and our sixth man within a week of each other. Everybody goes through injuries. We weren’t the only team.
“As those kids started to come back, we slowly as a team started to get better and better.”
Off-season conditioning and playing throughout the summer should get the Bulldogs ready for next year.
“I hope that they don’t think just playing will make you better,” Fulton said. “You have to work on your skills, too. You have to become better ball handlers and shooters.
“Just playing and getting game experience is critical, but also you have to put time in, in the gym.”