Westlake boys hoops strives to make another deep postseason run
Returning trio of starters look to uphold standard for Westlake boys
For the last three seasons, head coach Edward Mouton Sr. and the Westlake boys basketball program have been right there on the cusp.
Last season, the Wol- verines’ season ended in heartbreak with a 79-69 road loss in the Class 2A South Region championship game to Gwynn Park of Prince George’s County in Brandywine.
Before the 2015-16 sea- son, Westlake advanced to back-to-back 2A state finals that ended with a loss at University of Maryland in College Park.
The Westlake crew returns just four players for this season, which in- cludes three starters from last year’s squad.
“Our goal every year is to get a step further and get to [Xfinity Cen- ter] and for the last three years we’ve been really close, playing in two state championship games and was game away from states last year. We want to win a state champion- ship,” said Mouton, who enters his fifth year at the helm, leading the Wolver- ines to an 81-22 overall record the last four seasons. “I think our guys are focused and have been working hard in practice and to reach our goal we have to go to through the process and take care of the regular season and build team chemistry before we even get to the playoffs and make some noise for states.”
Westlake’s three start- ers from a year ago are senior guards Everett Mouton and Jeff Sim- mons and senior forward Amir Lawrence. They will be looked upon to carry the load this season and be leaders as the team will have nine first-year varsi- ty players who played on the junior varsity team a season ago.
“I’m trying to get them some experience right away, and varsity experi- ence,” said Mouton, refer- ring to his core of juniors who are newcomers to varsity. “They will have to recognize how varsity basketball really is. It is a learning curve from JV to varsity and they’re finding out how hard it is in prac- tice. They will be a big part in giving us a lift and making a run to states.”
Lawrence, who was a force on the wing and on the inside with his toughness and rebounding, averaged 11.3 points, 7.2 rebounds and 2.0 steals a game last season.
During the offseason, Lawrence has expanded his game and has improved on his jumpshot, which will make him more dangerous threat on the perimeter.
“This is my senior year and I want to go out with a bang, so in practice we have to go hard everyday and take things seriously and transition that to the game,” said the 6-foot-4 Lawrence, who made the All-County second team
last season. “We have a lot of talent, the future is bright. If we keep working hard, we can go far this season.”
The 6-foot-2, 190-pound Sim- mons, who will be playing a vital role at the point guard position, was the team’s third-leading scorer last season at 13.0 points per contest and he also led the team in minutes played at 24 a game.
He was also an All-County second-team selection.
“Last year it was tough losing
to Gwynn Park. We were just one game away from states,” Simmons said. “The coaches expect me to be more of a leader and be the floor general and push the ball up the court as much as possible.”
Mouton, who is currently out until mid-January with a torn meniscus, is Westlake’s returning long range shooter. He led SMAC in three-pointers with 60, was the team’s leading scorer at 13.7 points a contest, and picked as All-Southern Maryland Athletic Conference and All-County first-team selec- tions.
“We just want to make it as
far we can this year and get to states,” said the 6-foot-2 Mouton. “Right now I’m trying to be a leader off the court right now since I’m not on the floor. We have to push the younger guys.”
With Mouton out for all of December and the early part of January, Simmons and juniors Wayne Young and A.J. Davis will be counted on to carry the load on the perimeter during that span. Other juniors who could have a promising season are Victor Aldridge and Larry Clyburn.
Westlake, which finished 19-5 overall and tied with
North Point at 11-1 atop the SMAC Potomac division last season, will be guard-heavy, athletic and will be smaller than most teams, but the older Mouton noted his team is going to stick to what the Wolverines do.
“We want to bring pressure defense and play fast, quick and in a hurry. With not having a lot of bigs, we have to gang rebound,” he said. “We want to play an up-tempo style.”
Westlake opens the season at home versus Great Mills at 6:30 p.m. Monday in a SMAC nondi- vision matchup.
PHOTO BY WALLACE BARRON Westlake senior guard Jeff Simmons, pictured here going up for a layup over Isaiah Miles of Gwynn Park in last year’s Class 2A South Region final, will be one of just three returning starters in the Wolverines’ lineup for the 2016-17 season.