In a rigorous test of the Lady Comets’ evolving ability to adjust to an opponent, Amherst passed Saturday with outstanding marks in a 54-52 win over a previously undefeated Westlake team.
Key to the win was powerhouse rebounder and inside-the-paint scorer Jayla Hall.
“I think the biggest thing is we’re starting to trust our teammates. They found Jay and she made the plays. She made it happen,” said coach Kevin Collins. “We’ve said all year that the last thing to come will be our execution and our half-court offense. It can be really ugly at times but when we do it well we’re hard to beat.”
“We’re starting to learn how to win and that’s important.”
Amherst didn’t experience a learning curve in the opening of the first quarter.
The Demons scored twice before Kamryn Dziak put Amherst ahead 5-4 with a basket and a three-point goal. The Comets maintained that lead throughout the first period as Hall sunk a bucket, Sydney Roule hit one from short range and another from outside the arc, and Kate Iliff found only net for a three-point shot of her own.
Westlake scored six points from the foul line for an 18-10 Comets first quarter finish.
“Kamryn Dziak, and Kate Iliff have really helped us balance out the scoring,” Collins said. “Jay has been a monster on the boards, averaging 12 to 13 a game. And she finds ways to get it back up and in. That’s where she gets her points.”
Westlake wasn’t undefeated for a reason and a good part of that is their determination to win.
The Demons came back to take the lead on shooting by Rebecca Essig, Maddie Fleming, Monica Fury, Taylor Hood, and Katarina Jamsek.
Though Dziak hit her second three-pointer, Hall made another bucket under the net, and Roule went five of six at the charity stripe, the Comets were down 30-28 at the half.
The third quarter turned largely defensive as the teams probed for weaknesses.
The Comets dominated the boards to hold Westlake to four goals with Hood making the first of two Demons three-pointers. The Comets answered with four baskets of their own, two by Audrey Fayer, and one each for Hall and Iliff.
The 40-40 third quarter score only encouraged both teams to press harder.
Amherst eked out a small two- to four-point lead until the Demons tied the game at 52-52 with 13 seconds on the clock.
To this point Hall had three baskets, and Iliff and Roule one apiece. The Comets had possession and a quick pass to Hall in the paint for two points ended the game 54-52.
Most notable of the statistics in the second half is Amherst’s control of the boards. The Demons managed just four rebounds to 13 for the Comets. The teams were tied at 11 rebounds in the first half.
“The last two games, that’s been the biggest thing we’ve talked about: rebounding. We’re starting to do a really good job, and that’s huge,” Collins said. “Westlake didn’t shoot particularly well tonight, but we limited them to one shot. In the second and third quarter they got some offensive rebounds but once we tightened that up it turned the game.”
Photos by Carl Sullenberger | Amherst News-Times Junior post Jayla Hall drives through the defense of Demon Monica Fury to two of her 18 game points on Saturday. Hall’s scoring led the Comets to a 54-52 Southwestern Conference win over Westlake.