Story by Jim Horvath
Photos and videos by Larry Bennet
As their Saturday night game at Westlake moved into the second quarter, the Lutheran West Longhorns had things going their way. They had shot the ball well in the first quarter, and an Andrew O'Hara jumper had them five points up on the Demons.
But as hot as the 'Horns had been in the first 10 minutes, things went just as cold for them in the next 22.
And the Demons took full advantage.
Westlake went on a 12-0 run in the second quarter, then added a 9-0 spurt in the third as the visitors continued to struggle offensively. In the fourth, they held off a late Lutheran West run and closed things out with a 59-48 win in the Coaches vs. Cancer game at the Westlake Athletics Center.
The win gave Westlake a modest two-game winning streak after a rough first half of the season. On Friday, Lutheran West got an important Patriot Athletic Conference win over Black River, 74-40, but had to settle for a weekend split.
It was easy enough for Lutheran West head coach Alan Januzzi to figure out why. While his Longhorns went six of 12 shooting in the first quarter, they converted just 11 of 41 in the next three frames.
"We just didn't make shots," said Januzzi, whose team normally shoots near 50 percent from the floor. "We didn't turn the ball over, we moved the ball on offense and we got good looks. They just didn't go down.
"You can analyze games to death," he said. "You give up 59 points, with a bunch of those coming from the free throw line because it seems like we fouled a lot. But if we're scoring baskets, it's a whole different situation. The momentum changes, and your intensity picks up on defense.
"We didn't make shots. That's really what it comes down to," he added.
After O'Hara's bucket, Westlake got things rolling with a 3-pointer from sophomore point guard Noah Meek. Senior forward Cameron Brown scored inside to tie the game, then Meek drained another trey to make it 21-18, Westlake.
Senior Josh Gibson followed that up with a fast break jumper, prompting Januzzi to call timeout with 2:28 left in the half. After the break, junior Mark Schuler scored on an offensive rebound for the Demons to make it 25-18.
West senior Adam Felton broke the scoreless streak with a coast-to-coast layin, and fellow senior Nick Knudsen added an offensive stickleback of his own. Still, the Longhorns trailed at the half, 27-22.
The visitors came out of the locker room and scored the first four points, three of them on a fast break trey from senior Clay Carper. But the Demons answered with their 9-0 run that eventually grew into a 15-2 stretch.
Another Meek 3-pointer and an Andris Balodis free throw had Westlake in control, 42-28. The Demons led, 47-37, by the end of the quarter and pushed that lead up to 12 on a Brown rebound for two to start the final eight minutes.
The Longhorns, however, made one last push. O'Hara made both ends of a one-and-one opportunity, then junior guard Sean Voiers scored on a fast break. A steal for two, then another jumper from O'Hara had the visitors knocking on the door at 50-47 with 2:40 remaining.
But scores inside from Brown and Gibson, along with a five-of-six showing at the free throw line in the final 39 seconds, sealed the win for the Demons. Lutheran West, on the other hand, did not score in the game's final 1:56.
"We had a good weekend, and Josh is a big reason for that," said Westlake head coach Shawn Hood of his senior forward, who scored 12 points and pulled down eight rebounds.
"He was phenomenal in both games. He played better this weekend than he ever has for us. He rebounded the ball very well and shot the ball well," Brown said. "And Cameron Brown is a rock. He always plays well. He doesn't always score a bunch of points, but he always plays great 'D' and always leads us.
"We put him on the opponent's best forward, and sometimes it's a perimeter guy, sometimes it's an inside guy. It doesn't matter. He guards them, and he rebounds. In my opinion, he takes over games without scoring more than one basket," he said.
Brown had 13 points and eight rebounds as the Demons won the board battle, 38-29. Meek also had 13 points, including four 3-pointers, while senior Scott Leonard came off the bench to chip in with seven points.
"Noah stepped up and played a great game," Brown said. "He handled the ball very well, and he also passed and shot it well. He's really talented, and he's just beginning to show everyone what I saw in him early on this season."
Lutheran West was led by Voiers, who scored 13 points, while O'Hara was close behind with 12. O'Hara also pulled down six rebounds, while Felten and Carper added eight and seven points, respectively.
"I was happy with our kids' efforts, their poise and the way they played through things," Januzzi said.
"I thought they handled themselves well. They didn't give up, and we had a shot there at the end when we cut it to three points," he said. "To credit the Westlake kids, they broke our pressure and got some easy baskets. They got to the bucket and hit some big shots when they needed to.
"We came into halftime saying 'hey, we're happy where we are' after the way we shot in the second quarter. If we start knocking down shots, we're fine. But some nights, they just don't go in," he said.
Hood felt that his team, which topped Amherst 62-51 on Friday night, had some better days just over the horizon.
"We're playing better," Hood said. "Our kids are playing harder and being more aggressive.
"Most of my teams have started and ended the season that way, yet this team has taken some time," Hood continued. "We don't have a ton of experience because we lost eight guys off last year's team. When that happens, it's going to be hard.
"But the good news is we have terrific young players. Our guards are two sophomores and a junior. Then we have another junior small forward, so all of our perimeter people are underclassmen. We have terrific young big kids coming up through the program too, so the future looks bright," he said.
Januzzi echoed Brown's assessment of his young Demons.
"I thought their kids played well," he said.
"They had some kids step up and make some big shots. That's two wins in a row for them, and that's good. They're a young team, so I'm happy for Shawn and his program. It was a good weekend for them.
"I think they can finish the season strong and carry that momentum into next year," he added.
Lutheran West continues PAC play Tuesday night at Oberlin, while Westlake moves back into Southwestern Conference action that night at Avon Lake.
(You can follow us on Twitter @BeAFanatic. And yes, we're there for all of you Facebook folks too. Just click here and hit the like button: BeAFanatic.com.)
Click on the cameras below to view Larry's photos and video highlights from this game, as well as the special pregame ceremony: