For more than three-and-a-half quarters Friday night, the Westlake Demons held with host Berea-Midpark. After numerous lead changes and momentum swings, the teams were tied 56-56 with less than three minutes left.
Then, Titans guard Josh Finkovich, who had 22 points through the first three quarters, took over. In the closing minutes, he scored 16 of his team’s final 19 points, giving Berea-Midpark a 75-62 victory and Finkovich the new single-game school scoring record.
The senior finished the game with 38 points, breaking former Titan Brett Swinnerton’s record of 34. After his final point, Titans coach Duke Barther welcomed Finkovich off the court with a giant smile and hug as he received a standing ovation.
“I didn’t know until I tied (the record), my teammates were telling me on the court,” Finkovich said. “My coach has been giving me a lot of confidence lately. I had a rough stretch of games, they’ve been getting on me and they got me where I need to be.”
Westlake (10-6, 8-5 Southwestern Conference) turned the ball over six times in the fourth quarter, many of those Titan steals leading to quick transition buckets and contributing to that deciding 19-6 run to end the game.
“We definitely got sloppy with the ball. We got it tied up and then we had three or four turnovers in the span of 90 seconds,” Westlake coach Jeff Huber said. “When you turn the ball over, it usually leads to great shots for the other team and (Josh) is a great player. Twice we’ve played him and twice he’s torched us.”
The Demons led 18-17 after the first quarter and trailed just 34-30 at halftime, struggling to score down low due to Berea-Midpark’s size. They shot 40% from 3-point range, though senior Justin Garcia was held scoreless in the first half. That success from deep and early turnovers created by Westlake’s pestering full-court press kept it within four points going to the third quarter.
Garcia got hot in the quarter, scoring nine points on 50% shooting. He finished with 15 points, four rebounds and three steals.
“Obviously we certainly need him to be an efficient offensive player for us to play at our best (and) it was a struggle tonight,” Huber said. “Any time your leading scorer doesn’t score in the half, it’s going to make it harder.”
Westlake didn’t have to deal with just Finkovich. Juniors Dominic Zarzycki-Hall (10 points, four assists, four rebounds and three steals) and Alex Kvak (14 points, 10 rebounds) scored all their points down low.
“Alex is averaging 15 points and 12 rebounds a game. We usually go into him more but when you have a guy that doesn’t miss a shot, it seems like, (you have to get him the ball),” Barther said. “Dominic is so active. He’s improved throughout the year so much. He’s only about six-foot, but he plays a lot taller.”
Zarzycki-Hall set his own school record Friday, recording his 54th steal of the season with five more games to play.
Leading Westlake’s scoring was Tyler Kolocouris with 16 points, followed by Garcia’s 15 and Nate Klima, also with 15 points, adding three rebounds, three assists and two steals. Senior forward Joe Klessel had just two points, but had four assists and eight rebounds.
With the victory, Berea-Midpark (11-6, 8-5 SWC) completed the season sweep over Westlake, also defeating the Demons 81-79 in double overtime on Dec. 20. Both teams still have crucial conference battles ahead of them, with games against the No. 1 team in the SWC, Midview, and No. 3 Amherst.
“I think for us it’s a combination of needing to refocus but we also need to reflect on what we didn’t do that allowed this game to get away from us,” Huber said. “On Tuesday (a 73-53 loss to No. 2 Avon Lake) we physically didn’t compete very hard. I thought tonight we played harder, but we had too many mental mistakes.”
Contact this reporter at email@example.com or 440-871-5797.