West­lake downs River for sixth win in a row

De­mons on hot streak as they pre­pare for play­offs

The Morning Journal (Lorain, OH) - - SPORTS - By Dan Gilles sports@morn­ingjour­nal.com @MJour­nal Sports on Twit­ter

Head­ing into the Divi­sion I girls bas­ket­ball North­east Sec­tional Tour­na­ment, West­lake is feel­ing re­ally good about its chances.

In its reg­u­lar sea­son fi­nale against ri­val Rocky River — a for­mer South­west­ern Con­fer­ence foe now in the Great Lakes Con­fer­ence — West­lake put the fin­ish­ing touches on a six-game win­ning streak, us­ing an 8-0 run in the fi­nal two min­utes to put away the host Pi­rates, 56-42, Wed­nes­day night.

The De­mons made the short 4.8-mile trip home with a 13-9 reg­u­lar sea­son record, im­prov­ing from 7-9 mid­way through Jan­u­ary. The Pi­rates go into their post­sea­son tour­na­ment with a 9-13 record.

“We’re do­ing what we want to do at the end of the year,” West­lake coach Art Daniels said. “That’s six in a row and eight of the last nine, with the only one be­ing Berea-Mid­park. We’re where we want to be head­ing into the tour­na­ment. The girls have worked hard all sea­son long and they’re head­ing into a wide-open tour­na­ment against a lot of SWC schools again.

“Strongsville is the fa­vorite, but we’ll see what hap­pens. This

is a nice ri­valry with Rocky River. The girls all know each other, the coaches know each other, it’s a fun place to come play a game and vice versa when they come to our place.”

West­lake will host John Mar­shall on Feb. 17 in sec­tional play. Rocky River will host Fire­lands on Feb. 17 to open its post­sea­son tour­na­ment.

A 3-pointer from Rocky River se­nior Anna Beirne, who led the Pi­rates with 13, cut the deficit down to six, 48-42, with 1:57 re­main­ing. It capped a 12-9 fourth quar­ter run and a 26-17 turn­around from the start of the sec­ond half.

But the De­mons fi­nally had an an­swer, driv­ing to the hole on four straight pos­ses­sions and con­vert­ing three layups — two from sopho­more Gina Adams and one from ju­nior Abby Mata­lavage — and a pair of free throws by Adams to put the game away.

“I had seen River a cou­ple of dif­fer­ent times and they had come back from a few dou­ble-digit half­time deficits to win,” Daniels said. “That was one of the teams we talked about in prepa­ra­tion for the post­sea­son, and I re­minded them at half­time that this game wasn’t over just be­cause we were up by 15 at half­time.

“They’re gonna come af­ter you, trap you, do things to dis­rupt the of­fen­sive flow, and they did that. They made it a game at the end. To our kids’ credit, we found a way to get that stop and ex­tend that lead to the fi­nal score.”

Adams’ six-point spurt capped a 22-point per­for­mance in her sea­son fi­nale. She shot 9-for-16 from the floor and 4-for-6 from the line. Her two free throws with 37.2 sec­onds re­main­ing put the De­mons ahead by 11, es­sen­tially driv­ing the nail home.

“In the fi­nal min­utes, I felt we just had to slow it down be­cause I felt like we had been rush­ing shots dur­ing the fourth quar­ter,” Adams said. “We just had to play our game. We some­times get out of the way we play and we just had to get back to play­ing West­lake bas­ket­ball.

“We slowed our­selves down. We got our­selves to­gether. We de­cided that this was our game and we just had to fin­ish it the way that we should be.”

Daniels said that Adams has emerged as his team’s go-to scorer this sea­son.

“Gina’s a sopho­more av­er­ag­ing 15.8 points per game and she’s just a steady-type of player,” Daniels said. “The most she scored this year was 25. You just know what you’re gonna get from her night in and night out. She hasn’t ex­ploded for the 40-point game, but she’s just slow and steady and got the job done.”

West­lake opened up with an 8-0 run to set the tone early one, and rode that wave to a 17-10 first quar­ter lead that blew up to a 31-16 half­time ad­van­tage.

Adams con­verted a layup while be­ing fouled, and sank the free throw with 1 sec­ond left in the sec­ond quar­ter to put her team ahead by 15 go­ing into the sec­ond half.

“This was a great way to end the year,” Adams said. “In the be­gin­ning, we strug­gled a lot and it’s great to come into the tour­na­ment con­fi­dent with six wins in a row.”

JEN FORBUS — THE MORN­ING JOUR­NAL

West­lake’s Abby Mata­lavage weaves around Rocky River’s Brid­get McCue to take the ball to the bas­ket.

JEN FORBUS — THE MORN­ING JOUR­NAL

West­lake’s Abby Car­ring­ton sprints for her bas­ket af­ter a turnover dur­ing the De­mons’ game against Rocky River.

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