WESTLAKE — North Ridgeville coach Bill Noggle’s game plan was evident from the outset of his team’s game against undefeated Westlake on Tuesday night.
The Rangers, who entered the game 1-10, held the ball for 90 seconds on their first possession, an obvious attempt to keep the ball away from the Demons and slow down the game.
It worked on that possession, as the Rangers got — and missed — a good shot. And that was the only time it worked.
Westlake quickly turned that miss into a Gavin Skelly layup on the break. The bucket allowed Westlake to press the Rangers, and Ezzat Assad converted the ensuing turnover into a 4-0 lead.
Westlake was off and running, holding North Ridgeville scoreless over a nine-minute stretch spanning the first and second quarters, building a 23-3 lead and cruising to a 65-45 victory.
“That’s a very good team,” Noggle said. “We had to play almost a perfect game to win, and I don’t think we did. Sometimes good teams make you look like they made us look.”
The Rangers nearly had as many turnovers, 12, in the first half as they did shot attempts, 17. (They made three.) Westlake, meanwhile, made 14 of 23 shots in the first half, as its press — turned up a notch on Tuesday, as coach Shawn Hood pushed his team to get in passing lanes and look for steals — forced 20 turnovers overall.
Usually, Westlake won’t play quite as aggressively in its press, but the youthful Rangers have been prone to issues this season when faced with pressure in the backcourt.
“I asked our guys to deny passes, to get their hands on the ball,” Hood said. “We got some steals and some layups, and it was going to be difficult for (North Ridgeville) to hold the ball after we jumped out on them.
“Early in the game, I thought we were really intense, and that was the difference. (North Ridgeville) played us evenly for much of the game, and they have a bright future.”
After the Demons (10-0) sprinted to their big lead, the Rangers played better. Oddly, the turnabout came after a freak play in which Westlake’s Andrew Guirguis and Rangers point guard Matt Clark got tangled, drawing plenty of blood from Guirguis’ nose. The game was delayed for more than 10 minutes as the floor was cleaned up, and Guirguis didn’t return.
North Ridgeville outscored the Demons 10-8 the remainder of the first half to trail by 18, but the Demons rebounded quickly in the third quarter, scoring the first eight.
“I wasn’t really happy with our effort to start,” Noggle said. “I was proud we didn’t give up and roll over, but we weren’t strong with the ball to start. We had more success once we played stronger, but we were just a little too late. (Westlake’s defense) is hard to simulate in practice.”
Nate Inal led North Ridgeville with 14 points, while Clark scored 11 in the second half, including three 3-pointers, and 13 for the game. In a statistical quirk, 11 Demons — all but Guirguis — scored, but none in double figures. Bryan Mackenzie led Westlake with nine.
Westlake 65, North Ridgeville 45
NORTH RIDGEVILLE (45): Anthony Nguyen 0-2-2, Matt Clark 4-2-13, Bailey Gannon 1-2-5, Andrew Sismour 1-1-3, Dan Teitenberg 3-0-6, Nate Inal 4-3-14, Nolan Freeman 1-0-2. Totals 14-10-45.
WESTLAKE (65): Max Rodriguez 1-0-3, Ezzat Assad 4-0-8, Bryan Mackenzie 2-5-9, Yousef Kirallah 2-0-4, Matthew Leonard 3-0-7, Shawn Turk 2-1-5, Grant Gase 3-0-6, Danny Strodtbeck 2-3-8, Gavin Skelly 3-1-7, Jamie Lackner 3-0-6, Brian Guzik 1-0-2. Totals 26-10-65.
North Ridgeville 3 10 9 23 — 45
Westlake 17 14 16 18 — 65
Three-point goals: North Ridgeville 7 (Clark 3, Gannon, Inal 3), Westlake 3 (Rodriguez, Leonard, Strodtbeck). Field goals: North Ridgeville 14-41 (34 percent), Westlake 26-48 (54 percent). Free throws: North Ridgeville 10-15 (67 percent), Westlake 10-14 (71 percent). Rebounds: North Ridgeville 23 (Freeman 3), Westlake 34 (Kirallah, Gase 5). Turnovers: North Ridgeville 20, Westlake 15. Total fouls: North Ridgeville 13, Westlake 14. Fouled out: None.
Junior varsity: Westlake, 45-37.
Contact Joel Hammond at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.