WESTLAKE — It was a night for making statements and history for Avon Lake on Monday against Westlake.
Arianna Negron led the Shoregals with 16 points and Avon Lake’s stifling defense held the Demons scoreless for over 11 minutes midway through the game in a big 40-37 Southwestern Conference win.
The statement came as the Shoregals (17-3, 13-3 SWC), avenged an early season, one-point loss to the Demons, who received the No. 2 seed in the Division I Elyria district tournament, one place above Avon Lake.
Shoregals coach Dave Zvara provided the history by picking up his 100th win in eight years at Avon Lake.
“This is a major win for us,” said Negron, who went 4-for-4 from the free throw line in the final two minutes to keep the Shoregals in front. “Beating the No. 2 seed is huge. Everyone is going to look at us as more of a threat in the tournament.”
Westlake (16-3, 13-3) took a 15-5 lead behind the 3-point shooting of Abby Carrington and Molli Mulder, who each hit a pair of threes in the first quarter. Carrington led the Demons with 13 points.
Trailing 15-7 after one quarter, Avon Lake finally found its defensive intensity.
Westlake scored the first points of the second period to go up 17-7, but didn’t score again for nearly 12 minutes until Grade Adams made a layup with 2:32 left in the third point to end a 19-0 Avon Lake run.
“In the first quarter we didn’t do a good job of getting down the floor on defense and we were a little panicky against the 2-3 zone,” Zvara said. “At the end of the quarter I just told the girls you gotta get your butts in gear. We picked up the intensity and made them rush instead of us being the ones who were rushing.
“Without a doubt the seeding gave the girls a little extra motivation,” Zvara said. “If we’re going to do anything in the tournament we’re gonna need to play defense like we did tonight against a really solid Westlake team.”
It was a big offensive night for Shoregals seniors Elizabeth Murdock.
Murdock scored Avon Lake’s first five points, then came back to score the first two baskets of the fourth quarter to give the Shoregals a 32-22 lead.
“We know there’s a chance we could see them in the playoffs so we really wanted to bring it to them and show them we have what it takes to beat them,” Murdock said of the Demons. “There was a lot of intensity tonight. We all wanted this game.”
The Demons went on a 9-0 run midway through the fourth quarter to get within 34-33 but they never held a second-half lead.
No one on the Avon Lake bench was aware Zvara was coaching for his 100th win. After the game, Zvara’s family and Avon Lake athletic director Brent Schremp presented him with the game ball and balloons to celebrate the occasion.
“We’re all so happy for coach Zvara,” Murdock said. “Everyone is just in a great mood right now.”
For much of the season Avon Lake has struggled finishing close games. Prior to Monday, its slimmest margin of victory was seven points while two of its losses were by one and the other by six.
So a three-point win could be a sign the Shoregals are peaking at just the right time.
“We just have to keep working together, playing strong and doing exactly the things we’re doing now and we’ll be ready for the tournament,” Murdock said.
Avon Lake 40, Westlake 37
AVON LAKE (40): Amber Achladis 1-1-3, Arianna Negron 6-4-16, Lindsay Yurick 0-2-2, Elizabeth Murdock 7-0-15, Emma Knick 1-2-4. Totals 15-9-40.
WESTLAKE (37): Molli Mulder 2-0-6, Abby Matalavage 2-0-4, Abby Carrington 5-0-13, Grace Adams 3-3-9, Stephanie Randar 1-3-5. Totals 13-6-37.
Avon Lake 7 11 10 12 — 40
Westlake 15 2 5 15 — 37
Three-point goals: Avon Lake (Murdock), Westlake (Carrington 4, Mulder 2). Field goals: Avon Lake 15-42 (36 percent), Westlake 13-38 (34 percent). Free throws: Avon Lake 9-15 (60 percent), Westlake 6-10 (60 percent). Rebounds: Avon Lake 30, Westlake 25. Turnovers: Avon Lake 15, Westlake 21. Total fouls: Avon Lake 12, Westlake 15.
Junior varsity: Avon Lake, 43-29