WESTFIELD, NJ — The Westfield High School girls varsity basketball team had the A.L. Johnson Crusaders cornered Wednesday night.
The Lady Blue Devils' deft command of their offense led to open shot after open shot from either corner in the second half, when second-seeded Westfield pulled away from an eight-point halftime lead for a 62-29 victory in the first round of the Union County Tournament.
In Westfield head coach Liz McKeon's offense, the players take just as much pride in the crisp cut away from the ball and in the pinpoint pass as they do in the field goal that finishes the set. And in the second half of Thursday's contest, the Blue Devils executed a clinic in all three of those elements.
"We are all really unselfish players who play as a team," said Ali LiSanti, who scored all 11 of her points in the third quarter, when Westfield broke the game open by outscoring Johnson, 23-10. "We always look for that one more pass that will lead to a better shot. When we have a set, as soon as we pass the ball, we keep on moving."
After being held scoreless in the first half, LiSanti scored eight points in a row early in the third quarter, turning a pass from Chloe Kreusser into a 3-pointer from the corner, driving the baseline for a bucket and then draining another trey after a pass from Charlotte Dursee to give Westfield a 31-20 lead.
"Ali is a great shooter," McKeon said. "She didn't score in the first half, but we just told her to keep shooting."
LiSanti kept shooting, and Westfield (14-7) kept passing. After Johnson (9-12) cut the margin to 31-22, Westfield scored nine points in a row. Lily Maz fed Caroline Dwyer on a backdoor layup, Faith Dobosiewicz nailed a 3-pointer after a pass from Dwyer, Grace Klag put back a rebound, then Klag sank a foul-line jumper off a pass from Maz.
Klag played a strong game under the boards and at the high post, finishing with 11 points and nine rebounds.
Oddly enough, Westfield didn't score a single point out of its halfcourt offense in the second quarter, when the Blue Devils were held without a field goal until the final minute. They were clinging to a 16-14 lead before scoring the last six points of the half on two foul shots by Klag, and then a pair of transition baskets by Dobosiewicz after she stole the ball on consecutive Johnson possessions with 46 seconds left and 23 seconds left.
But in the second half, 14 of Westfield's 17 baskets came with an assist. Maz, LiSanti, Dobosiewicz, Dursee, Dwyer and Kreusser each handed out three assists.
"They were patient, unselfish, they got the ball to the open man and swung the ball around like they should," McKeon said. "We made the right passes and took the right shots."
In addition to 11 points each for LiSanti and Klag, Dwyer and Sam Stravach each scored 10 points and Dobosiewicz finished with nine points.