The Westfield Wolverines (2-1) started the game on a 10-2 run and never looked back as they dropped the Dunkirk Marauders (0-1), 57-46, in non-league boys high school basketball action Tuesday night at Dunkirk Senior High School.
"We got that early lead and fortunately for us, (Dunkirk) didn't score any points in bunches coming back the other way," Westfield coach Bob North said. "We made a few mental mistakes later in the game that we've got to clear up, but it's only the third game of the year. So I was pretty pleased (Tuesday) with our play overall."
Tanner Dahl scored 10 of his 16 points on the night in the opening quarter while Jessie Rodriguez added six of his game-high 17, helping the Wolverines to a 20-10 lead after eight minutes.
OBSERVER?Photo by Gib Snyder III
Westfield’s Liam Tennies (25) and Dunkirk’s Esmond Colvin (3) fight for a rebound during Tuesday’s boys non-league high school basketball game.
"Tanner's tough to guard," North said of Dahl. "And when he gets it going, he's something fun to watch. Between him and Jessie Rodriguez we had 33 points between my two point guards. I call them both point guards because they can both handle the ball."
The Wolverines outscored the Marauders 37-36 the rest of the way, but the early deficit, coupled with 40 turnovers throughout the game, did the home team in.
"We didn't really have a run after that," North added. "But I think we got a little passive, too. And we talked about that at halftime. In our press, I don't think we were being aggressive enough. But late in the game, we gave up some easy layups too, which I didn't care for."
The Wolverines outscored the Marauders 16-12 in the second quarter and 11-9 in the third, before Dunkirk put up 15 points to Westfield's 10 in the final stanza.
"I thought the second half was better than the first half," first-year Dunkirk head coach Steve O'Brien said. "And we talked (Monday) about how we weren't going to worry about the results of the game. We were hoping for a win (Tuesday), but we're looking at the season as a whole, so we want to see how we progress."
After Dahl's 10-point effort in the first quarter, Rodriguez got hot in the second and third quarters, when he scored 10 points.
"He's got two good guards," O'Brien noted of North. "And I think they came out and played well. We got outplayed. Bob (North) does a great job. They ran their system real well and it took our kids a little while, I thought, before they got comfortable actually running our offense."
It wasn't all bad for the Marauders however, as O'Brien was pleased with the effort of his team, which includes several underclassmen
"We have a lot of sophomores in the program that will be playing a lot," O'Brien said. "So that's good for the program in the future. But the seniors are certainly aware that we want to progress through the year, so that when we get to the last four games, we're playing good basketball and get a shot at a playoff game and a chance to make some noise."
Michael Bess, one of the seniors O'Brien was referring to, led the Marauders with 15 points, which is what he expects.
"We're anticipating that Michael is going to lead our team in scoring," O'Brien said. "A lot of the plays, the end result is him getting an open shot, so I hope he does lead us in scoring."
Other bright spots for the Marauders were the work Esmond Colvin did on the boards as he pulled down 25 rebounds to go with 10 points and the effort given by Tyler Kubasik, who added seven points and 10 rebounds.
"He played the whole game," O'Brien said of Colvin. "I think he gave us a great effort on defense, but he's got to play the back on the press when we trap. And that's a lot of movement. I just couldn't sub him out. Eight of his 25 rebounds were offensive rebounds, so he was going after (the ball)."
With the good, however, there is always the bad.
And on Tuesday night, the bad for Dunkirk was its inability to make its free-throw shots as it finished the night 3 of 14.
"We missed 11 free throws and lost by 11 points," O'Brien said. "We work on it, trust me. We shoot free throws at the end of our conditioning drills and then we run, so they're tired. So, to me, they're practicing them in a game-like situation. And we do better as a team than 3 for 14. But it was what it was. Whether it was jitters, choking or just not being mentally ready for the game."
Westfield, on the other hand, went 16 of 19 from the charity stripe and knew full well what success at the line can mean when it comes to wins and losses.
"Free throws are huge," North said. "I've told my kids all along that in a close game, it's going to come down to the free-throw line. And I thought we shot them real well early, so I was pleased with how we did from the free-throw line."
Dahl added six rebounds and three assists in the win while Rodriguez chipped in a pair of assists and grabbed seven rebounds for the Wolverines, who are feeling a bit better about themselves after suffering a tough loss to Sherman in the title game of the Westfield Winter Classic on Saturday.
"That was one of the things I wanted to do was get good non-league games," North said. "And the (Westfield Winter Classic) over the weekend was good for us. We had a close win and a tough loss to a good Sherman team. And now we played Dunkirk non-league and got a win and now we get to play them next week."
As for the Marauders, who will be back in action tonight against Health Sciences, O'Brien knows his team has a long way to go before they resemble a finished product, but for the first time being on the floor in a regular-season game, he was pleased with at least one aspect of what he saw out of his players Tuesday night.
"Nobody gave up," O'Brien noted. "Everybody ran hard the whole game and we had a short bench, so that was a positive."