WESTFIELD, NJ — A lot can change in four minutes. After the St. Mary’s Elizabeth Hilltoppers jumped out to a early 9-6 lead Tuesday, the Westfield Lady Blue Devils stormed back on a ferocious 17-1 run to finish out the final four minutes of the quarter, putting them up 23-10. The no. 9-seeded Hilltoppers never recovered and no. 8-seeded Westfield went on to win 56-41 in the first round of the 2016 Union County Tournament.
“I think this is what we’ve been trying to do all year. We’ve been close in every game all year, and I think everything really came together tonight,” Blue Devil head coach Liz McKeon said. “The girls stepped up and played like a team and that helped us to win.”
Shannon Devitt led Westfield with 20 points and also chipped in on defense with multiple blocks. Grace Elliott had 15 points of her own and Amalia Montes added 13. On the other side of the ball, St Mary’s Zaria Butler had an outstanding game, scoring 28 points, including four three-pointers.
The Hilltoppers got on a few decent runs after fast break turnovers and quick threes, but the Blue Devils always had an answer by hitting big shots of their own.
St. Mary’s tried to make a final push with five minutes remaining by utilizing a full court press but Westfield’s guards including Elliott, Danielle Rinaldi, Molly Ryan and Jenna Iorio, were able to break it and maintain the double-digit lead.
McKeon and the Blue Devils look to build upon this performance going forward.
“We can improve on everything. I mean, you’re never going to be perfect,” McKeon added. “But, definitely, foul-shooting and rebounding are key things we always look to improve on.”
Westfield (8-12) will move on to play top-seeded St. Patrick’s (17-6) on the road on Feb. 19.
“I have the utmost confidence in them,” McKeon said. “Like I’ve said, we’ve been in every game, every game’s been close, and I think that’s going to payoff for us in the postseason.”
Eric Storms is a student at Westfield High School participating in a journalism program with TAP into Westfield.