By Ryan Kaczmarski
Both Westlake and Brecksville-Broadview Heights battled hard to the end Friday night, but it was the Demons who prevailed 46-39 over the visiting Bees, to take their season-opening winning streak to nine games and take sole possession of first place in the Southwestern Conference.
First-year head coach Shawn Hood knew he had a special group of boys, but no one could have expected the Demons to start the season like this.
“My players are good,” Hood said. “My biggest surprise when I took the (Westlake) job was (how good) the players are.
“If you ask me if I thought (we’d be) 9-0 – no, I didn’t think that. I thought we’d be competitive, and it’s because they are good players.”
The Demons (9-0, 5-0 in the SWC) took an early 7-0 lead to start the game and had a 16-11 lead at the end of the first quarter. Westlake then stretched its lead to 20-11 early in the second quarter, but Brecksville’s zone defense held them to only two more points in the half, and the Bees (6-3, 4-1 in the SWC) chipped away at the Demons’ lead, making it a two-point game at the half.
“I saw quite a bit of (their zone) against North Royalton when we were scouting them,” Hood said. “I knew they had it in their system, and I figured they would probably use it against us. It was a wise decision.”
Coach Hood had his team raring to go after halftime, as they scored six quick points before the Bees knew what hit them.
“This is what I told them (during halftime): ‘We are in for a 32-minute basketball game. We’re not going to blow them out – they’re very good – and as long as we’re prepared for a 32-minute game, I can live with the results,’” Hood said.
The Bees cut their deficit to five points at the end of the third quarter and made it a one-possession game with about a minute left in the game. Demons senior Grant Gase scored an inside bucket, making it a five-point lead with 47.4 seconds left – forcing Brecksville head coach Steve Mehalik to call a time-out – and four free throws later, Westlake had its victory.
“It (Gase’s late score) gave us a little bit of a cushion,” Hood said. “We wouldn’t have to scramble on defense and we wouldn’t have to do uncharacteristic things on defense. We could play them conservatively, and we didn’t have to press them. We could just stay in there with our (man defense).
“It was a big bucket,” he added. “I had challenged him in the last time-out to come out and do something, and he did.”
Sophomore Gavin Skelly led the balanced Demons offense with nine points, and the trio of seniors Ezzet Assad and Gase, and junior Shawn Turk, scored eight points each.
Brecksville sophomore Tim Tupa led all scoring with 21 points.
The Demons continue their path of SWC play on the road Friday night at Midpark (5-5, 1-5 in the SWC).