Patient offense and aggressive defense was the name of the game for the Lutheran West girls basketball team Wednesday night at home. Facing conference rival Brooklyn, the Longhorns raced out to 22-4 lead after the first quarter, which eventually became a 45-28 victory over the Hurricanes.
Even in the middle of a week that coach Trey Senney called the toughest of the season, in which his players are taking finals and counting down the days until winter break and Christmas, his team was focused and prepared.
“Our message before the game was bout being focused and being present and I think we really did a good job of that,” Senney said. “We’re really lucky to have a group of 11 girls that all but three of them had varsity experience last year. From a maturity and intelligence standpoint, we’re really lucky in that regard.”
Senney also said that with all that experience, this year’s team is one that, on any given night, can have a different standout player. Friday night, it was senior guard Paris Mather’s turn
Mather came on strong in the first quarter with eight points and three steals. Though she cooled off as the game wore on, she still finished with 14 points and five steals, each team-high marks.
“(Senney) always says, ‘When you’re studying, focus on studying and not anything else. When you’re at practice, focus on basketball and not anything else,’” Mather said. “Since we played very well on defense, I was able to get steals or make a layup or pass it down.”
Mather wasn’t the only Longhorn that had offensive success. Junior forward Hope Kiraly scored 10 points and senior center Jashaunna Harris was a force down low, scoring nine points and pulling down five rebounds.
Because of contributions from her teammates like this, Mather said she never feels like she has to be the sole provider for the team.
Lutheran West’s offense ran predominantly on feeding the ball under the basket or slashing to the hoop and getting layups. The Longhorns (4-2, 2-1 Chagrin Valley Conference) made nearly 50% of their shots inside the arc (18-of-38), with many of those scores coming on long possessions featuring numerous passes.
“Very quickly, early on, we’ve developed this ‘being a teammate is the most important thing,’ mentality,” Senney said. “I thought that this group, in particular, is one that that really sticks out with. We don’t really rely on one individual every night, but we do hang our hat on quality defense, ball movement on offense and making good decisions.”
After the Hurricanes’ four-point first quarter, Brooklyn (3-5, 2-3 CVC) added eight in the second and another four in the third, unable to sustain success on offense. In the fourth quarter, on the back of 10 points from freshman Shariah Gailes (13 points and 12 rebounds), the Hurricanes scored 12 more points to cut the final deficit to 17 points.
Lutheran West will finish its finals-filled week against Berkshire at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at home before heading to Rocky River to play the Pirates at 5:00 p.m. Dec. 27.
“The fact that we were able to win with the stress (of this week) shows how strong we are,” Mather said. “(Senney told) us (that) our focus wasn’t there in the second half but I think that that’s also a learning opportunity. This really helped us solidify what we need to do when the game starts.”
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