Lady Trojan cagers make SWC tourney
"SWC, here we come." That's what the Weston girls basketball team's statement Wednesday in a 56-37 victory at Stratford in the regular-season finale to raise its record to 13-7, 8-7 in the SWC. Stratford failed to qualify for States because of its loss and ended its season at 7-13, 2-13.
Weston is the eighth-seed in the SWC playoffs and will at top-seeded Lauralton Hall tomorrow at 7 p.m.
The Lady Trojans began their season at 11-1 before falling on hard times when their best player, senior tri-captain Christina Welsh tore her ACL and MCL. Weston played its best game since losing Welsh for the season and moreover, it proved it would have done better in its captain's absence if it did a better job of adjusting to it back then.
"It was the best game we played since Christina was out," Rosen said.
Lady Trojans senior tri-captain Dakota Sloop said, "It was an important win because we qualified for SWCs and it was the last regular season game. We played really well in this game and against Kolbe [a 74-50 home loss Monday] and the intensity level was high in both games. It was a confidence booster."
Welsh's injury isn't the only one Weston had to overcome even though she's obviously its most significant injury. The injuries forced the Lady Trojans to reshuffle their lineup with senior tri-captain Hannah Hutchins becoming the point guard and Sloop, who was a power forward, moved over to the wing. Junior Lianna Hursh returned to the lineup from her injury Monday, which alleviated part of Weston's burden.
"We were finally able to adjust and having Lianna back was reassuring," Sloop said. "We were more cohesive in the new positions."
Rosen said, "When we lost Christina, I said we were going to adjust and we successfully made the adjustments. People are used to playing at their new spots."
The Lady Trojans never trailed and took the lead for good at 4-2 when junior Ellie Martin (24 points, 14 rebounds, one steal, two forced turnovers) scored on a putback off the offensive glass.
Although Weston had trouble rebounding at times and the Lady Red Devils exploited this with their smaller players sneaking in for offensive rebounds, it never had problems grabbing the missed shots when they landed on Martin's side of the rim. Stratford rarely garnered those rebounds because the Lady Trojan junior was like a vacuum cleaner and snagged those boards.
"We were all boxing out as usual and the ball happened to go to my side and I grabbed it," Martin said.
Martin's putback began a 9-0 run which gave Weston an 11-2 lead. Hutchins (11 points, three rebounds, seven assists, two steals, one blocked shot, three forced turnovers) was deft in setting up the offense and fed sophomore center Anna Mahony (six points, four rebounds, six blocked shots) for an easy layup.
"I tried to draw the defender as much as possible and everyone was in the low blocks, which made it easy for me to dish off," Hutchins said.
Sloop (11 points, seven rebounds, three assists, three steals, four forced turnovers) scored on a putback during the early rally and was a defensive force that bottled up Stratford.
"I was on my toes and focused on rebounding, which contributed to my defense," Sloop said.
Hursh (two points, seven rebounds, one steal, one forced turnover) was also a rebounding and defensive force and the 6-0 Mahony made it tough for the Lady Red Devils to get off their shots.
Turnovers and rebounding cost Weston and Stratford was able to cut the lead to four, 15-11 on senior tri-captain Anna Young's (five points, two steals) soft jumper. However, the Lady Trojans pushed it back out to nine at the break, 22-13, with Hutchins setting up Martin's layup.
Martin scored eight of Weston's first 10 points of the second half, hitting two layups from Sloop and four free throws to extend the lead to 18, 32-14. Junior Maggie Maretz (two points) swished an outside shot for the Lady Trojans' other two points in this surge.
"Hannah, Dakota and Lianna did a good job of getting me the ball and their ability to make passes set me up for easy shots," Martin said.
Turnovers were costly for Weston and its miscues helped the Lady Red Devils get back into the game. Junior guard Teanna Gordon (six points, 12 rebounds, five steals) made her presence felt on defense for Stratford and Lady Red Devil junior tri-captain Morgan Mahoney (15 points) hit three 3-pointers and had a coast-to-coast layup off of a steal to make it 33-24 with 4.3 seconds left in the third quarter.
However, the Lady Red Devils couldn't get any closer because for the second straight Wednesday, Hutchins swished an improbable 3-pointer from 35 feet out to make it 36-24 after three quarters and shift the momentum back to the Lady Trojans. She rimmed in a trey from at least 40 feet out in a 45-35 win over Kennedy Feb. 9.
"They were pretty lucky shots and I tried to push the ball up and get open for these shots," Hutchins said. "I didn't realize both shots were at the same time."
Hutchins scored 10 of her points in the second half and her drives helped Weston build its lead back up in the fourth quarter.
"I tried to drive to the basket and get my legs involved," Hutchins said.
Sloop also drove well and helped seal the victory.
"Their two-three defense opened things up for me at the right time, so I penetrated when it was open and I was able to finish," Sloop said.