By Ryan Kaczmarski
The Westlake High School boys varsity basketball team kept its record unblemished with a 66-40 victory at North Olmsted Friday night.
The Demons (9-0, 5-0 in the Southwestern Conference) sputtered on offense in the first half – taking a 17-16 lead in to halftime – but turned it on in the third quarter, while North Olmsted wilted.
“We haven’t played for a long time, and we were rusty,” Westlake head coach Shawn Hood said. “Trust me, North Olmsted had something to do with us not playing well in the first half also.
“It’s hard not playing for more than 10 days – or however many days it’s been for us – and come out and play a well-executed game. I had on the (chalk) board that I don’t care that we’re going to be rusty. I don’t care that we’re not going to be perfect. I just care about our level of intensity, and I thought – for the most part – they brought that for 30-plus minutes.”
Westlake was held to 12 points in the first quarter and only five points in the second quarter, but dropped 26 and 23 points in the third and fourth quarters, respectively.
Northwestern University recruit Gavin Skelly led all scoring in the game with 21 points for the Demons, followed by strong showings by Makis Beach, with 16 points, and Joe Hadib, with 14 points.
“I think that’s why we are playing OK, because we don’t just rely on one guy,” Hood said. “Obviously, (Skelly) is terrific. He’s the best talent I’ve coached since I’ve been coaching basketball.
“We don’t need him to be great every night. We have other good players, and I think that allows Gavin to be great.”
Fading in the third quarter has been a problem all season for North Olmsted, but Eagles head coach Jason Frolo knows his program is on the rise.
“In some games, against the better teams, the third quarter has been a problem for us,” he said. “We’re playing tough for a half, then the other team realizes that their in for a ballgame and turns it up a notch, and we didn’t.
“Our effort, toughness and intensity couldn’t have been better (tonight),” Frolo added. “We didn’t back down from a team which is undefeated, and I’ll take our effort – as in how hard we played – any day of the week.”
Just when the Eagles (5-5, 1-3 in the SWC) started to claw their way back into the game, it seemed like someone from Westlake – whether it was Beach or Andris Balodis sinking a 3-pointer, or Skelly doing everything else – to put it even more out of reach.
“They have a nice player over there, and he’s obviously the difference maker out there on both ends of the floor,” Frolo said of Skelly.
Sophomore forward Andy Lucien led the Eagles in scoring with 12 points, followed by junior Matt Starcovic with nine and seniors Jah Tyler and Jimmy Nachar with five points each.
“Obviously, we want to play for right now, but we know some good things are coming down the road with the guys we have out there,” Frolo said. “We’re in a very tough conference and we’re taking our lumps.
“We’ve won some games and got some confidence – the kids are learning how to win a little bit – and I think we’re headed in the right direction.”