WESTLAKE — The iron was unkind to Amherst all game, but it saved its worst for the waning moments of the Comets’ 47-42 Southwestern Conference loss to Westlake on Wednesday night.
Amherst shot just 25.8 percent from the floor (15-of-58) and connected on just 5 of 15 free throws in the game.
In the second quarter the Comets (2-1, 2-1 SWC) missed their final 11 shots as the Demons (3-0, 3-0) closed the half on a 16-1 run to take a 31-21 lead into halftime.
Amherst spent most of the second half digging out of its 10-point hole. A Kamryn Dziak steal gave the Comets the ball, down 44-42, with 44.2 seconds remaining.
First-year coach Jay Valdez called a timeout to set up his offense and the Comets got exactly what they wanted — except the rim got in the way.
Dziak dribbled around the Westlake defense and drove to the basket. She got underneath the backboard, looking to lob the ball to 6-foot-1 junior post Amaya Staton, who was open underneath.
The pass hit the side of the rim, into the waiting arms of Demons’ senior guard Abby Matalavage.
Westlake hit three of four free throws in the final 7.2 seconds to seal the victory.
“We wanted to take the clock down and get the last shot and if the three wasn’t there, we were going to run it,” Valdez said. “She ran it all the way through and lobbed to the middle. It was there and it hit the rim. That was a difference-maker.”
Dziak, who finished with 10 points, four rebounds and three steals, said the final moments of the game, though disappointing, told her something about her team.
“It was frustrating, but it’s good to know we can fight back and put ourselves in that position,” she said. “We were so close and we had it, but it kind of slipped away.”
Junior forward Abby Carrington had 14 points in the first half, but was held to just a single free throw in the second. The Demons scored just 16 second-half points, but Amherst could not hit a basket when it needed one to either tie the game or take the lead.
Four times the Comets had the ball, down two points, in the second half. Four times they failed to hit a game-tying shot.
“Like I told the girls, you’ll have nights like that, and it’s OK,” Valdez said. “I would rather have it in December than in February. We’re very young and the only player that’s been in these types of situations more than once is Kam. These girls are learning on the fly and I’m real proud of them. When shots weren’t falling, they kept fighting.”
Staton led Amherst with 11 points and eight rebounds, despite missing most of the first quarter with a back injury that took place just 23 seconds into the game.
Katie Turner scored eight off the bench for the Comets.
“A lot of these young girls haven’t been through games like this,” Dziak said. “I’m proud we came out of that locker room for the second half and played like we weren’t going down without a fight.
“We left so many points on the board that we shouldn’t have missed, missed layups and we didn’t shoot well at the foul line. Those are fixable things.”
Contact Mike Perry at 329-7135
Westlake 47, Amherst 42
AMHERST (42): Audrey McConihe 1-0-3, Kamryn Dziak 3-1-10, Lexi Alston 1-1-3, Faith Lewis 1-1-3, Amaya Staton 5-1-11, Anna Cairns 1-1-3, Katie Turner 3-0-8. Totals 15-5-42.
WESTLAKE (47): Molli Mulder 0-4-4, Abby Matalavage 0-4-4, Abby Carrington 6-1-15, Gina Adams 4-6-14, Stephanie Randar 1-4-6, Emma Hall 1-1-4. Totals 12-20-47.
Amherst 15 6 7 14 — 42
Westlake 13 18 5 11 — 47
Three-point goals: Amherst 6-23 (Dziak 3, Turner 2, McConihe), Westlake 3-11 (Carrington 2, Hall). Field goals: Amherst 15-58 (25.8 percent), Westlake 12-35 (34.2 percent); Free throws: Amherst 5-15 (33.3 percent), Westlake 20-27 (74 percent); Rebounds: Amherst 35 (Staton 8), Westlake 35 (Randar 10). Turnovers: Amherst 17, Westlake 21. Total fouls: Amherst 19, Westlake 14 . Fouled out: Adams.
Junior varsity: Westlake, 29-24