For a team with just three seniors, Westlake showed a lot of fortitude and composure in closing out a tight game at Marble Falls against Smithson Valley Friday night, 52-41. The win sets up a Regional Quarterfinal matchup against Judson, a team coming off an 81-29 demolition of Lake Travis.
“For us, being so young, this is huge for us,” point guard sophomore Presley Bennett said. “We’re just excited to play Judson in the next round.”
After going into the half up by just six points, 24-18, Presley helped the Chaps open up that lead to nine at the end of the third quarter, a lead they would maintain for the majority of the fourth quarter.
Presley finished the game with 12 points including two timely Eurostep layups in the third, which was good for second highest behind fellow sophomore Shay Holle who had 15. More importantly, she controlled the pace of the game, which was a key factor in the Chaps preserving their lead.
“[I’ve learned to] not be as nervous,” Presley said. “Last year, bringing the ball up, I was like, ‘Oh gosh, here we go.’ But now, the composure has really grown for me.”
With Smithson Valley’s regular starting point guard injured, Presley faced off against freshman Trinity Garrett. The backup played all 32 minutes in the game and ended with 11 points and would have had a myriad of assists had her teammates finished at a higher percentage around the rim.
“She’s getting tougher — she still has moments where it’s that freshman mentality, and she breaks down and doesn’t step over when we need her to completely hustle,” head coach David Farber said. “We played her 32 minutes — I don’t think she came out at all. So she gets tired, but she has to get past that stage of getting tired and giving non-stop hustle until you can’t hustle anymore and crawl off the floor at the end.”
Coming into the game as huge underdogs, Farber wasn’t overly disappointed with the result. But he did lament his team’s perimeter defense and pointed to a sequence right at the beginning of the second half when sophomore Bailee Chynoweth hit two quick three’s to turn momentum in Westlake’s favor.
“We were still close,” Farber said. “We were talking about it inside, that we were right where we needed to be. Options were still there, but we gave up too many inside layups late in the half, and we started scoring down here, but all we were doing was trading baskets.”
More of a physical game than what the Chaps are used to, head coach Katie Hensle said she’s proud of how her girls didn’t back down and fought for every loose ball and rebound.
“It was probably the most physical high school game I’ve been around in a while,” she said. “The refs let it be physical both ways, but we talked about it before the game. Our biggest deal was going to be matching their physicality. I thought [senior] Makenzie Mowat was huge. She forced four or five jump balls, and we say she’s 5-7, but she’s so strong. [Freshman] Eleanor Scott came in off the bench and was physical and got four big boards.”
They’ll have to step up again in the Regional Quarterfinal as they face the No. 2 team in the state, Judson, a team that’s only lost four games all year.