D2 West fight
Maple Grove prevails in Westfield
WESTFIELD — As the Westfield Wolverines continue to try and find their stride with their new look lineup, they continue to face competition who have more experience.
On Friday night, it was the Maple Grove Red Dragons.
Despite a late comeback attempt by the Wolverines, they fell just short in a 67-59 Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Athletic Association Division 2 West loss to the Red Dragons.
The game was tight to start. Westfield’s Darien Swanson buried a three on his first attempt of the game, and although Maple Grove followed that basket with a 6-0 run, the Wolverines answered with points of their own, as Swanson and Brayden Kneer led the charge for them throughout the game. The Red Dragons had a balanced first quarter attack, with five different players scoring baskets. After one quarter, the Red Dragons clung to a 15-12 lead.
But that changed in the second quarter. The Red Dragons made the first two shots of the quarter, and while Kneer answered those with two of his own, the Red Dragons defense found their stride. The two teams would trade buckets one more time, but the Red Dragons ripped off a 14-4 run to close out the first half, led by two 3-pointers from senior Adam Marsh and six points by junior Tucker Fenton. The Red Dragons took a much safer 35-22 lead into the intermission.
Defensively, Maple Grove coach Al Roller knew keeping Swanson locked down was the key to victory, as they held Swanson to 7 points in the first half. Guarding a Swanson is something Roller has first hand experience with.
“We came in with more intensity tonight,” Roller said. “I knew we had to keep Swanson in check.”
The start of the third quarter followed the same script as the beginning of the first two, with the teams trading baskets. Westfield was able to hit a few 3-pointers in the third, both by Swanson, as they used treys to answer Maple Grove twos in order to close the gap a little closer. Westfield’s Cole Holland also found his stride in the third, scoring 6 points in the frame, and some big shots to help cut the deficit. By the end of the third, Westfield had closed the gap, and now trailed 48-41.
And they’d continue to close the gap in the fourth, at least at the start.
Holland and Swanson scored another three points each, and junior Easton Seger buried a huge trey as Westfield had cut the gap to as close as 52-50 midway through the fourth. Though they struggled in the first half, Westfield coach Bob North was happy with how his team battled.
“I liked our fight,” North said. “We had it down to a two-point game, and I was pleased. We played better tonight. When I get three guys in double digits I’m always happy.”
But unfortunately, the comeback attempt would end there.
Maple Grove’s Dew Kelemen, who was solid all night, scored 7points, and Gehrig Myles hit a pair of free throws as the Red Dragons ripped off a 9-2 run to take their lead back and they never looked back from there. The Wolverines had some chances in the waning moments, as the Red Dragons struggled to hit their free throws, but while they missed the shots, they were able to corral their own rebounds to take more time off the clock.
Swanson and Kneer both led the way for Westfield, each scoring 19 points. Holland finished with 10, and Ethan Weingart scored 8. For the Red Dragons, Kelemen finished with 16, with Fenton adding 15, and Marsh scoring 13.
“Ironically I had a speed-demon team last year, but now I have big guys,” Roller said. “We have to slow down and feed the post. I’ve been working on post moves with Tucker (Fenton) and the bigs, all the kids have to learn it, and tonight he did really well.”
North also noted Fenton after the game, saying his height was a huge mismatch for the smaller Wolverines team.
“The kids played hard, and we’re still trying to find a defense we play well,” North said. “We got a little better in 2-3 tonight, but we’re so small that they hurt us inside. Brayden (Kneer) did the best he could, but Fenton hurt us.”
Fenton and Vaillancourt each had 10 boards for Maple Grove, while Cam Crist had five assists and four steals, and Kelemen added four steals as well. Holland had a double-double for Westfield, adding 13 steals to his 10 points, while Kneer had seven rebounds and Swanson dished out nine assists.
Maple Grove (4-1) looks to continue its hot start Monday when it entertains Brocton.
“All the kids have been sitting home for a while, and when you get them back, you notice how they change and how much they need basketball,” Roller said. “We’re getting there. We haven’t touched the tip of the iceberg, and when we’re firing on all cylinders, we’ll be fun to watch.”
Meanwhile, the Wolverines (1-3) are next in action on Thursday against Panama as North looks for his team to rebound better and take care of the ball.
“Those are the little things,” North said. “Being a small team, and we’ll be smaller than most teams, we have to do a better job rebounding. We emphasized rebounding and turnovers at halftime. We had to take care of the ball.”