- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
This is all new to her.
The intensity of the playoffs, the added meaning to each possession and the lose-and-your-season-is-done dynamic is on her for the first time in her high school basketball career.
But Westlake freshman sharpshooter Alexus Willey can handle it all; it showed in a 74-47 victory over Chopticon for her and the Wolverines on Wednesday night in the Class 3A South Region semifinals.
Leading the third-seeded Wolverines with 20 points, 14 of which were scored in the first half, Willey put on a shooting display that included the first nine of her 20 points coming from three three-point makes.
“I knew I just had to keep shooting, and my coach tells me to keep shooting,” Willey said.
The victory put the defending 3A South champions back into the region championship game, a place all too familiar to Westlake head coach Ardell Jackson. His team will play top-seeded Friendly at 7 tonight in Prince George’s County. Friendly defeated fourth-seeded Northern, 56-33, in the other semifinal.
“Our whole thing was to use the regular season just to kind of retool and jell and get to this point where we could play basketball,” Jackson said. “They are playing together as a team, and it feels good to be back [in the title game]. We feel confident.”
Westlake won the semifinal contest in wire-to-wire fashion, taking a 2-0 lead two minutes into the game and never relinquishing the lead.
It was a much different contest than the 60-56 overtime battle Feb. 13 that also ended with Westlake on the winning side.
“We were determined, and we knew that we had to work together as a team,” Willey said. “We worked hard in practice and got to a point where we could beat them by more than we did last time.”
Senior forward Breanna Gleaton agreed, “We most definitely were determined throughout the entire game. We go to practice, work hard in practice, and we knew that we could [perform better] than the last time. We came out and made sure we were not playing [around].”
Willey and Gleaton (10 points) were two of four double-digit scorers for Westlake, as Chynna Hill added 15 and Paige Perminter added 11 in the win.
Westlake followed a similar path through its region championship run last season, defeating Chopticon in the semifinals before defeating Friendly, who Westlake will again meet in the region title game.
“We have to work harder than we have worked this entire playoff season,” Gleaton said of heading into the title game. “We have to work harder, a lot harder.”
Willey said of playing in the title game for her first time, “This is kind of going to be new, and I am going to have to adapt to the environment and be able to play in a harder environment.”
There were a total of 81 free throws attempted in the contest, and Chopticon guard Ty Priest converted 15 of her 18 attempts (83 percent), finishing with a game-high 23 points in the loss.
Chopticon head coach Joe Cook finishes his first year as head coach. Despite the season being over with an overall record of 17-7, Cook thanked his four seniors, Katie Thompson, Mary Beth Pappas, Courtney Buckler and Jessica Belfield, for helping him along in his first-season journey.
“Especially with me being in my first year, they were true leaders,” Cook said of his senior group. “They really gave it all they had, and we give them a lot of credit.”
Raiders’ season ends
Leonardtown’s run through the 4A East Region playoffs came to a close Wednesday in a 44-24 loss at second-seeded South River in Anne Arundel County.
Alyssa Bois led the Raiders with seven points, and Erin Buhler had six.
The Raiders (11-13 overall) got past 11th-seeded Great Mills in the opening round, then upset third-seeded Arundel of Anne Arundel County in the quarterfinals.
South River travels to top-seeded North Point for the 4A East title game, to be played at 6:30 tonight.
North Point defeated 12th-seeded Severna Park from Anne Arundel County, 57-15, in the other semifinal Wednesday night.