Avon Lake/Westlake GBB

Westlake's Abbie Gardner defends Avon Lake's Arianna Negron Wednesday night. Negron was limited to six points in the Demons' 44-34 victory.

Just minutes into a key Southwestern Conference girls basketball game Wednesday, nothing was going right for the Westlake Demons.

Their man-to-man defense was gouged by host Avon Lake, and the Shoregals used a fast start to go up 12-4. With a length advantage and the team’s bread-and-butter defense still in her back pocket, Westlake coach Karen Swanson Haan decided it was time to change things up.

The Demons (15-3, 13-1 SWC) came back out with a 2-3 zone and, suddenly, the game’s momentum flipped a 13-12 first-quarter lead turned into a 44-34 victory, their eighth in a row and one that kept them in a tie with Olmsted Falls for first place in the league.

“I thought we came out totally flat in our man-to-man, and we just weren’t active and we weren’t aggressive and we weren’t talking,” Swanson Haan said. “And when we switched to the zone, all of a sudden we started getting longer, more communicative, and I think that switch is really what changed the game.”

Seniors Gina Adams and Abby Carrington led the Demons with 12 and 11 points, respectively, while Emma Hall added nine off the bench, all on 3-point attempts. All eight Demons who saw court time scored as the team achieved its goal of keeping pace in the with the Bulldogs in the SWC. On Jan. 25, Westlake used an Adams buzzer-beater to hand Olmsted Falls its first conference loss of the season.

After Wednesday, each team had four league games remaining. The Demons, having beaten the first and third-place teams on the road within a five-day span, are riding a wave of confidence as the regular season winds down.

“I think we’re doing really great,” said Carrington, who also grabbed a team-high seven rebounds. “We’re bonding so much as a team, and we’re just getting better and better. This was a big win here because last year we lost to them. But we’ve beat them twice this year, and we just keep pushing every day and bringing our intensity.”

After a 9-0 run at the end of the first quarter gave them the lead, the Demons did their part to maintain it. They went into halftime up 24-20 and increased it to as much as 40-28 early in the fourth. All the while, the zone continued to befuddle the Shoregals (13-5, 9-5 SWC), who shot 26% from the field and committed an uncharacteristic 17 turnovers.

Emma Knick led the team with 12 points, the only Shoregal to reach double figures. Lead guard Arianna Negron was limited to six points and Grace Dean had five with a team-high six rebounds. The Shoregals enjoyed a 27-21 rebounding edge over the Demons, including 14-7 on the offensive glass, but couldn’t make the extra shots count.

“(Westlake’s) a good-sized team and credit to their defense,” Shoregals coach Dave Zvara said. “They play a good 2-3 zone, they’re long, lengthy and strong and they cause you some problems. We missed some shots, some easy layups, and they made us play helter-skelter on offense.”

Avon Lake showed fight with 2:15 left in regulation, cutting the deficit to 40-34 after Corey Kroneker scored a layup and drew a foul. She sank the free throw, but the Shoregals didn’t have enough time to complete the comeback.

Both teams play on the road tonight at 7 p.m. with Westlake taking on third-place Avon while Avon Lake plays Amherst.

For questions about this story, call 440-871-5797.

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