WESTLAKE — Through eight minutes Tuesday night, Amherst frustrated unbeaten Westlake into seven turnovers and a tie score.
Then Westlake showed why it will be so difficult to frustrate for extended periods of time this season.
The Demons, limited to jump shots against Amherst’s 3-2 zone in the first quarter, turned to its zone press to start the second to pick up the pace. It worked well: The Demons scored the first 11 points of the quarter — seven off turnovers — and rolled to an easy 73-60 victory.
“It’s fun for us to play in the press and speed the game up,” said Westlake point guard Makis Beach, one of four Demons in double figures with 13 points.
“It’s tougher to play us. We’re a pretty athletic team. We got a few turnovers, and that got us back in the flow of the game.”
Westlake (4-0, 2-0 Southwestern Conference) dominated the offensive glass in the first quarter — it had six attempts on its opening possession before Gavin Skelly scored on a putback — but remained tied at 10 after the first quarter. Amherst’s Danny Fortney, Antonio Serrano and Rees Rua scored consecutive baskets to get the Comets even.
That’s when the Demons went to their diamond-type press to create havoc. They put 6-foot-9 Skelly on the ball, and encourage the opposition to inbound to a corner. Then Skelly and either Beach, at 6-0, or Joe Hadib-Nissan, at 6-3, trap the first pass.
To open the second quarter, Hadib-Nissan scored on a putback and Conner Meek added a basket. Skelly converted a three-point play off a turnover, then Meek scored again off a Comet mistake and Skelly punctuated the 11-0 quarter-opening run with a slam — one of two on the night — to make it 21-10.
Worse for the Comets (2-2, 0-2 SWC), many of the turnovers in the second quarter happened within their own painted area, leading to quick Demons buckets before Amherst could even defend.
“When you put 6-8 (Skelly) on the ball, we don’t match up with that,” Amherst coach John Srnis said. “We have enough good ballhandlers, but we got stunned a little bit and by then it was too late to get the wheels back on the cart.”
Serrano stopped the Demons run with a basket, but Hadib-Nissan, Beach and Anthony Trujillo scored consecutively to increase the lead to 29-12. Trujillo led all scorers with 17 points, and was 5-for-7 on threes. Skelly added 15 and nine rebounds, with Hadib-Nissan scoring 10.
Westlake coach Shawn Hood said the Demons will use the press intermittently. They opted not to use it Friday night against Olmsted Falls, for instance, and he was hesitant to turn to it against Amherst, which features one of, if not the, best ballhandlers in the league in Garrett Klekota.
But Hood said it can be used as a tool to speed up the pace, which suits Westlake’s personnel.
“Our start was a credit to Amherst,” Hood said. “They’re a patient team, and even though I thought they’d hurt us since they can handle the ball, I thought if we could speed up the game it could be to our benefit.
Contact Joel Hammond at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Westlake 73, Amherst 60
AMHERST (60): Adam Srnis 4-0-11, Antonio Serrano 3-0-7, Danny Fortney 2-0-6, Rees Rua 4-3-12, Shane Derricotte 1-0-2, Anthony Eliopolous 2-0-4, Casey McConhie 2-0-5, Garrett Klekota 3-6-13. Totals 21-9-60.
WESTLAKE (73): Danny Slavik 2-3-7, Anthony Trujillo 6-0-17, Joe Hadib-Nissan 3-3-10, Makis Beach 5-0-13, Andris Balodis 1-0-3, Conner Meek 4-0-8, Gavin Skelly 7-1-15. Totals 28-7-73
Westlake 10 30 20 13—73
Amherst 10 12 10 28—60
Three-point goals: Amherst 9-27 (Srnis 3, Serrano, Fortney 2, Rua, McConhie, Klekota), Westlake 10-24 (Trujillo 5, Hadib-Nissan, Beach 3, Balodis). Field goals: Amherst 21-61 (34 percent), Westlake 28-61 (46 percent). Free throws: Amherst 9-15 (60 percent), Westlake 7-9 (78 percent). Rebounds: Amherst 26 (Srnis 5), Westlake 47 (Skelly 9). Total fouls: Amherst 10, Westlake 13. Turnovers: Amherst 10, Westlake 19.