- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Three goals defined the Westlake girls basketball season at the onset.
The Wolverines just accomplished the first one Saturday with a 43-40 win against Fairfax (Va.) in the championship game of the fifth annual Waldorf Holiday Hoops Classic, marking the program’s first title against the perennially quality field.
Eight girls hoops teams were involved in the Thursday-through-Saturday tournament, which saw Westlake and North Point serve as the host sites.
The title-game victory for Westlake was on archrival North Point’s court. North Point, the reigning Class 4A state champion, did not play on the girls side of the tournament due to being scheduled for a Washington D.C., invitational involving nationally ranked teams that ultimately was canceled.
Westlake’s stellar free throw shooting was the catalyst in the Wolverines hanging on for the tournament title, where the Wolverines drained 21 of 24 foul shots (88 percent) to withstand a Fairfax fourth-quarter rally.
Junior guard Paige Perminter drained both her foul shots with five seconds left, cementing Westlake’s victorious outcome, as a last-ditch Fairfax three-pointer was off the mark.
Perminter and senior guard teammate Shanea Butler were each 5 for 6 at the line to lead Westlake (6-2). Butler finished with a game-high 13 points. Perminter had seven points behind teammate Chynna Hill’s eight.
“It was a great win for the program, for the school,” said Westlake head coach Ardell Jackson, whose team now focuses on its other two goals of winning the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference and 3A state titles. “This is a huge stepping stone for us. Fairfax was a tough team with a lot of talented players. When you win tough games like that, it gives the kids an opportunity to see no matter how bad they’re shooting [from the field], that the defense can pick it up.
“This propels us to push forward [into our SMAC schedule of the regular season]. We’re excited.”
Westlake was much more efficient from the line than the field, which saw them connect on only 2 of 10 three-point tries. But the Wolverines defense was stifling throughout, holding Fairfax to just 15 first-half points.
Fairfax (8-2) made only 14 of 55 field goal attempts (25 percent), including a woeful 2 of 23 (9 percent) from beyond the arc. Fairfax could have made up for its poor floor shooting if not for struggling at the line, as well, hitting just half of its 20 free throw attempts.
“We got some key stops on defense,” said Jackson, whose team fell to North Point in the tournament final last year. “Our defense is solid. We switched things up [during the game] and went to a zone and played half-court defense.”
Westlake’s fast start in the opening quarter, jumping out to a 15-6 advantage, was paved through its full-court pressure. But Fairfax made the proper adjustments after its ill-fated start. It cut a 23-15 intermission deficit to 34-27 going into the fourth.
During the final quarter, Fairfax got to within 41-40 coming out of a timeout with 18 seconds remaining. Fairfax then stopped the clock by fouling Perminter. But as it did throughout the game, Westlake was money at the line to clinch the tournament title.
“She hit big free throws,” the Westlake head coach said of Perminter’s pair of charity-stripe conversions in the waning seconds.
Fairfax also fell to Westlake a year ago in the tournament by a 57-45 outcome in the semifinals round, also at North Point.
“It was a dynamite game,” said Fairfax head coach Marcus Konde, who had nothing but praise of Butler and how she gave his team fits. “I thought we had a good chance to beat them because they had somewhat of a cakewalk to the championship game. So I thought they wouldn’t be ready for us.
“Overall, I thought we played some great defense. We just couldn’t hit our free throws.”
Inside force Jessica Daguilh led Fairfax with 12 points and 11 rebounds in the tournament final. Guard teammate and co-captain Kylie Murphree added 11 points and five steals in the loss.
“For us, it’s about gaining experience [in championship games],” Konde added. “We got to know what it’s like to play in a championship game.”
Westlake romped Suitland, 111-36, at home to open its tournament action Thursday. Friday, Westlake downed Ballou (D.C.), 73-65, at North Point to advance to Saturday’s tournament final.