WESTFIELD — Using a devastating full court trap defense and sparking its offense on the turnover points it yielded, Westfield soundly defeated its neighboring girls’ basketball rival Saturday night.
The Lady Blue Devils got off to a scintillating start and jumped out to a 22-10 lead entering halftime. They never looked back, and at one point led by as many as 17 points in a 43-33 victory over neighboring Scotch Plains-Fanwood.
Molly Ryan dropped a game-high 15 points and Sam Stravach chipped in 13 to lead Westfield, which never trailed in the contest. LBD is now 7-5 for the season and went a perfect 3-0 this week against strong competition.
“Our intensity and our pressure [worked well], I think all the girls on all levels — everyone that came into the game — did a great job of knowing what we wanted to focus on to bring Scotch Plains out of their game,” Westfield head coach Liz McKeon told TAPinto.net. “It would help if we made a couple of layups, but the pressuring and sticking together and talking really got it off to a hot start.”
Ryan scored 13 of her 15 points during the first three quarters, in which Westfield outscored Scotch Plains, 34-17. The senior knocked down two buckets in each of the opening three frames, and scored six points during a 12-0 Westfield run that spanned from 6:10 in the first quarter to 4:51 in the second.
On the heels of a 26 point performance against Plainfield on Thursday, Ryan is now the team leader in points (142, 12.9 per game) and three-pointers (19).
“We pressed the ball and broke them down under pressure, and we forced a lot of turnovers,” Ryan said of what attributed to her and her team’s scoring success. “Togetherness and we were all able to slow them down under pressure.”
With the exception of Scotch Plains’ overpowering fourth quarter, Westfield displayed offensive and defensive dominance during the opening three quarters. The Blue Devils allowed the Raiders just two field goals during the game’s first 12 minutes, while constantly preventing them from crossing halfcourt on baseline inbounds plays. This also caused ample turnovers to which the Blue Devils converted chip in layups.
Before the Raiders went on an 11-2 run to open up the fourth quarter, they had sunk just six field goals compared to Westfield’s 14 during that span. However, the majority of those Westfield buckets came on turnovers and not out in transition offense or the half court set. The Blue Devils would finish with a game total of 17 baskets.
“We were struggling offensively; we just looked very flat on offense,” McKeon said. “We weren’t making layups, easy shots, so in order to get us back into our game, we do this press. We work on it every day in practice, the girls know where they need to be, they talk to each other, and that’s what’s going to ignite our offense — it’s getting those steals and getting those layups.”
Joining Molly Ryan in double-digit scoring was Sam Stravach, who dropped 13 points on six field goals. When the Raiders began to creep back into the game, Stravach would often hold down Westfield’s fort — 11 of her points came in the second half. Stravach banked two buckets in a third quarter in which Westfield limited Scotch Plains to one basket in a seven minute span, and hit another two shots in the game’s final four minutes to help hold off the Raiders’ rally.
Ryan and Stravach have formed quite a dynamic scoring duo for Westfield. Behind Ryan, Stravach’s 99 points are second most on the team and she currently has knocked down the most field goals (41).
“It’s great — the team we’re playing has no idea who’s going to step up that night,” said McKeon of her balanced offense. “That’s the best part about this team, is having the balanced scoring.”
Scotch Plains made things dicey down the stretch, cutting Westfield’s lead to as low as eight points. Leading the Raiders’ late charge was Burton, who scored six during the fourth quarter and also took a key charge on Westfield’s Grace Elliott with four minutes, 33 seconds remaining after the Raiders opened up the frame with eight unanswered points. Brianna O’Brien would hit a huge three-pointer about a minute later, which cut Westfield’s lead to 36-28, but Ryan hit three free throws down the stretch to secure the win for Westfield.
The Lady Blue Devils hit the hardwood again on Tuesday, hosting Bayonne at 4:30 p.m.