Westlake buzzer beater

Westlake's Gina Adams (22) watches as her game-winning shot goes through the net in Saturday's 38-37 victory over Southwestern Conference-leading Olmsted Falls. Adams had 10 points in the win.

Gina Adams spent countless time practicing pull-up jump shots with the Westlake coaches until she felt confident in the execution. All that work paid off last Saturday.

Down by one in the final seconds at league-leading Olmsted Falls, Adams took one dribble to her left past a defender and knocked down a game-winning jumper from the right wing to give the Demons basketball team a 38-37 victory, their first against the Bulldogs in two years.

“We’ve been working with Gina on that midrange jumper for a year,” Demons coach Karen Swanson Haan said. “She hits those so consistently in practice, and when we needed it tonight, it was huge. All the credit goes to the girls and to Gina for how hard she’s worked.”

Though the shot was pure, initiating a celebratory scrum in front of the Westlake bench, it wasn’t actually a part of the plan. The idea was to get junior Emma Hall a look at a game-winning 3-pointer from the corner.

“I was looking for Emma for the three, but she passed it back and there wasn’t a lot of time left, so I did what I had to do,” said Adams, who fought off foul trouble to finish with 10 points and five rebounds. “I knew I just had to take one dribble, pull-up shot, and thank god it went in.”

It was Falls’ first SWC loss of the season, and moved both teams into a first-place tie at 12-1 in the conference with five games left. The Bulldogs (15-2 overall) led most of the game, going up by as much as 27-19 in the third quarter before the Demons (14-3) started chipping away.

After their 2-3 zone had holes poked in it in the first half by a patient Bulldogs offense, the Demons switched to man-to-man defense in the second half. They outscored the Bulldogs 11-6 and forced four turnovers in the third quarter.

“They kind of forced our hand on that,” Swanson Haan said. “And it ended up working out alright for us. I think we had an exceptionally good defensive third quarter.”

Westlake pulled within two points at the end of the third quarter, thanks to an Adams bucket in the final seconds, then stayed within one possession of the Bulldogs in the fourth.

With 10 seconds left and the Bulldogs up 37-34, Adams made a layup to pull within one, then Bulldogs junior Grace Simon was fouled and missed both free throws.

The Demons grabbed the rebound and called a timeout, setting up the dramatic final play.

“There’s not much preparation for (that last shot),” Bulldogs coach Jordan Eaton said. “A really good player made a really good shot, two of them if you count the one she made before that. You kind of just take your hat off to (Adams). She’s better than good.”

Hall finished with nine points — all 3-pointers — for the Demons and Abby Carrington had eight. Junior guard Allison Milligan led the Bulldogs with 11 points, including two free throws with 26.5 seconds left that put her team ahead 37-34, and junior Lauren Galaska, who was often tasked with guarding Adams, finished with six points and four assists.

Despite the loss, Eaton believed there was plenty to take away with the SWC still undecided.

“You can always build on these situations,” Eaton said. “We struggled at the free throw line a little bit (shooting 2-of-5 in the fourth) down the stretch, and it’s hard to simulate that in practice, so at least now if we’re in that situation again, we’ll have been there before.”

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