AMHERST — Comets coach Jay Valadez knows he can’t beat basic math.
In Amherst’s 49-36 Southwestern Conference loss Saturday, Westlake was able to build a lead by knocking down shots from beyond the 3-point arc. Westlake hit seven 3-pointers, four in a critical second-period stretch, while Amherst (10-7, 7-5 SWC) failed to connect from beyond the arc.
Junior Amaya Staton, a 6-foot-1 center, scored 15 of her team-high 18 points in the first half to keep Amherst close, but Westlake (13-1, 11-1) was 6-of-9 from 3-point range in the second quarter to build a 10-point halftime lead.
“That was huge,” Westlake coach Karen Swanson Haan said of the 3-point barrage. “They were playing that 1-3-1 (zone) against us and if we weren’t going to attack through it we would have to knock down open threes. We got some nice ball movement and the girls stepped up and hit them.”
The math didn’t add up for the Comets.
“We can go inside and go inside, but we can’t trade two for three,” Valadez said. “In this conference, anybody can beat anybody on any given night. We have to learn to be ready for the challenge, night in and night out. We’re growing and learning to do that, but there’s still those lows we have.”
Westlake led 30-20 at halftime, but Amherst’s defense allowed the Comets to claw back into the game. Valadez called on senior Katie Turner off the bench to hound Gina Adams, and Turner responded by limiting Adams to just three points in the quarter as Amherst outscored Westlake 9-4. Adams finished with 22 points.
“Katie can do that,” Valadez said. “It has to be the right matchup, and this was a great matchup for her. She’s a tough kid that brings it night in, night out. She did a tremendous job of keeping Gina in front of her.
“Westlake is a very, very good team and they’re deep. A team like that will give us fits, but being able to come back and keep it within striking distance was a big accomplishment for our girls.”
The Demons led 34-29 at the end of the third. They used an 11-1 run to put away the game midway through the fourth quarter.
“I am absolutely thrilled with the defense we played,” Swanson Haan said. “We came in with a solid plan, I thought, and every single one of those girls executed it to near perfection. I’m thrilled about our effort on the defensive end.”
The Comets shot just 25 percent from the floor. Leading scorer Kamryn Dziak hit just one of her 13 shots.
“It’s been an up-and-down road for us, to say the least,” Valadez said. “We’re either on or we’re off, and when our best scorer is in a slump it hurts us in a lot of different ways.”
Despite the loss, Staton said the Comets learned something.
“It was very important because this is one of the top teams in the area,” she said. “We pretty much had to fight back and see ‘Oh, if we can get them, then we can get this next team.’”
Westlake 49, Amherst 36
WESTLAKE (49): Molli Mulder 1-4-6, Emma Hall 2-0-6, Abby Matalavage 1-0-2, Abby Carrington 3-2-10, Stephanie Randar 1-1-3, Gina Adams 6-7-22, Katie Whitesell 0-0-0, Christina Zkiab 0-0-0, Abby Rence 0-0-0. Totals 14-14-49.
AMHERST (36): Lexy Alston 2-3-7, Faith Lewis 1-2-4, Audrey McConihe 0-0-0, Kamryn Dziak 1-0-2, Amaya Staton 6-6-18, Anna Cairns 1-0-2, Katie Turner 0-0-0, Amaya Melendez 1-1-3, Jill Wood 0-0-0, Aya Vicens 0-0-0, McKenzie Wright 0-0-0, Bailey Smith 0-0-0. Totals 12-12-36.
Westlake 10 20 4 15 — 49
Amherst 10 10 9 7 — 36
Three-point goals: Westlake 7-19 (Adams 3, Carrington 2, Hall 2), Amherst 0-9. Field goals: Westlake 14-40 (35 percent), Amherst 12-48 (25 percent). Free throws: Westlake 14-17 (82.3 percent), Amherst 12-19 (63.2 percent). Rebounds: Westlake 33 (Adams 8), Amherst 39 (Staton 14). Turnovers: Westlake 16, Amherst 13. Total fouls: Westlake 15, Amherst 17.
Junior varsity: Westlake, 25-14.