Feb 07, 2014 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Sometimes for a high school team, Senior Night can prove emotional, nostalgic and distracting, with the festivities overriding the game that follows.
That was not the case for the Westhill girls basketball team, and especially for Anna Ross, who poured in 24 points and dominated in all phases of the game as the Warriors rolled past Bishop Ludden 56-33 on Thursday night.
The contributions for Ross went beyond her baskets. With nine rebounds and seven steals, she provided an anchor to a much-improved Westhill defense, and her seven assists allowed others to shine – including fellow senior Sam Peebles, who had 12 points in her last regular-season home appearance.
Not only did the win clinch the OHSL Liberty American division regular-season championship, it served as sweet payback for state Class B no. 15-ranked Westhill’s 59-52 defeat to the state no. 14-ranked Gaelic Knights exactly one month earlier, on Jan. 6.
“We didn’t play that well the first time (agianst Ludden), and we were just not going to lose to them on Senior Night,” said Ross.
What the Gaelic Knights (13-4) found out in the rematch was just how much the Warriors’ defense has stepped up. Head coach Sue Ludwig said the key to her team’s recent surge (which included a 55-23 romp over another state-ranked team, Bishop Grimes, on Feb. 1) was having the players talk to each other to recognize plays and create traps out of them.
Ross agreed. “We got back to the basics of communication,” she said. “It’s easier to play defense when you know where everyone else is.”
From the start, the Gaelic Knights were certainly aware. After Stephanie Brazell’s basket in the game’s first 90 seconds, Ludden did not manage another point for more than nine minutes, frequently forced into turnovers as Ross and her teammates clogged up the lanes and deflected errant passes.
Even with that, though, Ludden only trailed 13-8 midway through the second quarter. But Westhill would close the half on a decisive 14-4 run as Ross, taking a much larger role in the offense, managed 11 first-half points, and Peebles drained a big 3-pointer right before the buzzer to make it 27-12 at the break.
The Warriors maintained that double-digit margin throughout the second half, never letting the Gaelic Knights make any kind of sustained run. Helping out Ross and Peebles, Delaney Martin put together nine points and eight rebounds.
Ludden battled to the end, getting 14 points from its own senior star, Nicole Granteed, as Megan Sierotnik (recently called up from the JV ranks) had seven points. But Danielle Rauch, who burned Westhill for 20 points a month ago, only had six points here.
This night belonged to the seniors – Ross, Peebles, Emily Washburn and Nichole Pullano – who were honored with banners, T-shirts, balloons and streamers in the gym before the game, and then proceeded to delight the large home crowd with one of the team’s best performances of the season.
Peebles and Ross, who have played varsity basketball since eighth grade, both left to standing ovations late in the fourth quarter with the game well in hand. Yet they still have one big goal in mind – a Section III Class B title that has eluded the Warriors (15-2) for a decade.
To get it, said Ross, “we have to play the best we can”, but Ludwig said that she just might be seeing her team peaking at just the right time.
“We’re evolving, and we’re stepping up just when we need to at the end of the season,” said Ludwig.