High school girls basketball: Defense sparks Lakers in win
WASHINGTON TERRACE — Bonneville junior McKinlee Westmoreland's shoulders sagged and she pulled at her shorts in frustration before she walked to the free-throw line for the third time in 2 1/2 minutes.
It wasn't the fact that she was fouled that had the junior so flustered. It was the fact that she and her teammates couldn't seem to buy a basket against a tough, physical Roy team Wednesday night.
"It was frustrating not to be able to make (free throws)," Westmoreland said after she and her Laker teammates overcame a slow start to defeat Roy 45-31. "It felt good to make that first one. That helped a lot."
After Westmoreland made that first free throw with 3:40 left in the first quarter, the Lakers' offense just got stronger. The junior and her teammates said they were able to turn the game in their favor thanks to their own defensive effort.
After allowing 14 points in the first quarter, the Lakers held Roy to single digits in each of the remaining three quarters.
"We're a defensive team," said Westmoreland, who finished with 12 points and a half-dozen steals.
In fact, when the ball isn't bouncing their way, senior Valerie Buckway said it's defense that helps them find the hoop.
"We just get back on defense," she said. "That's where it all starts."
Bonneville head coach Mike Russell gave most of the credit for the slow start to Roy's defensive effort.
"For their first game, they played so well," he said. "Our free throws killed us. We'll get there, but we're not there yet. We have the makings of a great team."
Russell was pleased with how his team played against tough pressure and frustration.
"It's a good gut check for us," he said.
The Royals struggled against Bonneville's full-court press, and in the last three quarters, the Lakers out-rebounded the Royals. A large portion of those boards were pulled down by senior captain Megan Tanner, who missed the entire season last year with a torn ACL.
"I was just excited to play," said Tanner, who finished with 13 points and 12 rebounds. On one play, she rebounded her own miss twice before making the follow-up jump shot.
"She rolled her ankle in the Syracuse game," said Russell with a smile. "She was a little tentative at first, but she's going to be a great player."
Bryce Mitchell led the Royals at both ends of the court, and she finished with nine points, including a 3-pointer. Sophomore Jordynn Barrera added seven points, while senior Krystal Oliver scored six points.
There was a scary moment in the first quarter when Buckway fell after a hard foul and landed on her head.
"When I fall, I roll," she said. "It's an instinct because I used to be a gymnast." She said something stopped her rotation and she landed on the top of her head. Despite being dizzy, she returned to the game.
It didn't affect her play as she made all her points after the fall, including two 3-point shots.
As for earning their first win in their second game, the Lakers were unanimous.
"It felt so good," Westmoreland said of the victory.