- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Boys basketball team downs McDonough
By DALLAS COGLE
In his first game as head coach of the Westlake Wolverines, Edward Mouton was forced into making a provocative decision barely over a quarter into his team’s brand new boys basketball season.
He switched Westlake into a two-three zone defense after playing man-to-man, the team’s signature style, had not been working 90 seconds into the second quarter as the scorching perimeter hand of the McDonough Rams marched them out to an early 11-point advantage.
McDonough drained five three-pointers in the opening quarter and another less than a minute into the ensuing stanza.
Not only did the Westlake frontman have the conviction to go against his team’s preferred defense, but the two-three zone was an alignment the Wolverines had not practiced all preseason leading up to the contest.
“Absolutely,” Mouton said about the zone defense being solely responsible for Westlake completely turning momentum, finishing the first half on a 23-9 run en route to a 72-66 comeback road victory to tip off its season.
He added, “I wasn’t thinking about a two-three zone [going into the game]. We don’t even practice a two-three zone. I was planning on playing man-to-man the whole game and maybe [a little of] a one-two-two zone. But I just thought that we needed to go to a two-three zone to slow [McDonough’s] momentum down.
“I just had to try something, and it worked. Two-three [zone], I hope not to play [going forward], but if I have to, I’ve got to go with it. Whatever is going to give me a victory, that’s what I’m going to use.”
Monday, Westlake continued its unbeaten start to the season with a 77-59 triumph against visiting La Plata. The nonconference wins have Westlake sporting a 2-0 record going into tonight’s 7 p.m. home game versus Great Mills.
Senior guard Charles Clark, Westlake’s only returning starter from last year’s 14-9 team and the only Wolverines player with major experience, was instrumental in both wins with a game-high 18 points along with four rebounds in each contest, showcasing impressive consistency.
He has a perfect 7 of 7 at the free-throw line against McDonough, hitting all four of his crucial attempts inside the last minute after the Rams had gotten to within 65-63 with 48 seconds left.
Phillip Jackson and Desi Wiseman tallied 14 and 13 points, respectively, for Westlake in the season opener. Jackson matched a team high with five rebounds against McDonough.
“It did,” Clark said about his team’s two-three zone defense turning the game around for Westlake, “because they were getting a lot of corner threes in the first quarter and we figured we’d put two [players] down [to guard the corners in the zone]. And we kind of spread out the two-three. It wasn’t like a typical two-three, kind of a matchup [zone] so we could get out on the shooters. I think we did a better job of boxing out too [in the zone] so they didn’t get any second chances.
“I just think they weren’t expecting a two-three. They maybe were expecting man [defense], so switching it up kind of messed up their game plan.”
Mouton explained of how the Rams gouged Westlake’s defense through the opening 9 1/2 minutes. McDonough only hit four threes the rest of the way while being held to just 36 percent (24 of 67) shooting from the field for the game
“We were playing man and we were chasing [McDonough’s] shooters so they had time to set and shoot,” he said. “I figured rather than [our defense] chasing the [shooters] and collapsing on the point guard, we would just stay with the shooter and make it a little tough on them to shoot the ball. [The zone defense] really helped because they started missing in the second quarter.
“The kids weathered the storm, and we were able to catch up.”
Rams not concerned
Rashaad Kennedy was in a shooting zone from beyond the arc for McDonough until Westlake’s two-three zone eventually slowed him and his teammates down.
Kennedy finished with a team-high 17 points along with six rebounds, but he only registered two points in the second half. Kennedy drained a quartet of threes, including three in the opening 8 minutes 53 seconds, before Westlake shifted to the two-three zone.
Point guard Marquel Austin had 13 points and five rebounds in the loss to Westlake while teammate Muhammed Suleman scored 10 points.
McDonough, which was 14-10 last year, is 0-2 on the young season after losing its nonconference opener in close fashion too by a 60-57 shortcoming last Wednesday. McDonough travels to Northern for a 7 p.m. game tonight.
“To be quite honest, we really don’t care too much about December,” McDonough head coach Eulo Regala said. “With the coaches that we have, this is the third year now and every year we run a totally different system that’s tailor-made for our kids. So we use the month of December to find out exactly [how to run that system] and to make those adjustments.”
He added, “Two years ago we went 0-5 in December, then we turn around and win 15 in a row. Last year we go 0-4 [in December], then we end up winning seven in a row to finish [the season] out. [December slow starts] are just us. It’s not about necessarily winning in December. We need to make sure we’re playing our best ball come February and March, and that’s our goal, not to say we don’t care about December.
“I know this: two really close games in December pay dividends.”
Westlake took a 35-33 lead with 2 1/2 minutes left in the first half and only trailed once the rest of the way — that by a 43-41 margin during the first minute of the second half — as it managed to keep the upper hand in a close game, also thanks to Wiseman’s buzzer-beating pull-up three from beyond NBA long-range distance to close the third and the Wolverines sinking 7 of 8 free throws in the final 48 seconds to hold off McDonough’s late, hard-charging rally.
“It all started on defense, it’s our first priority,” Wiseman said of how Westlake overcame its early double-digit deficit to take control against McDonough. He scored 15 points 72 hours later versus La Plata. “Once we play defense, defense creates offense for us. We just focused on defense and that opened up a lot of things for us.
“I wasn’t surprised [we went to a two-three zone]. I knew it was coming once they started hitting a lot of threes in the first quarter. Once we got into the two-three zone, it stopped [McDonough’s three-point shooting].”
He added about his buzzer-beating three in the third that increased Westlake’s lead to a more comfortable 62-54 count, “It felt great. I knew it was going in. I came off the perfect curl, and I just knew Charles [Clark] was going to give it to me. That’s the chemistry we have.”