Off to the races: Big start propels West to playoff pummeling of Naaman
WYLIE -- One minute into Friday's area playoff girls basketball game between Plano West and Garland Naaman Forest, the Lady Wolves already had an 8-0 lead and the Rangers had four turnovers and no shots.
It was a sign of things to come.
West (35-3) continued to pour on the pressure, forcing 33 turnovers for the game, and picked up a 75-41 win over Naaman (19-15) in a game that was essentially over midway through the second quarter.
"Our defense was pretty good tonight," said Tyara Warren-Cox, West junior. "We got good pressure and rotation; it was a combination of things."
"Overall, the defense looked really good," added Don Patterson, West head coach. "We wanted [Naaman] to have to handle the ball to see if they could handle our pressure and the girls really turned the intensity up tonight."
Naaman hung tough after West's initial 8-0 salvo, but the Lady Wolves had their lead up to 22-12 by the end of the quarter thanks to Natalie Chou. The freshman, who led her team with 14 points, came in late in the first and made an immediate impact by scoring the next six points.
"Natalie played really well again tonight," Patterson said. "She's been coming along and getting more comfortable with the girls."
Naaman wasn't done though as West was forced to call its lone timeout after the Lady Rangers pulled to within 26-18 following a bucket from Amanda Barlow, her ninth and 10th points of the game.
Barlow wouldn't score again from there.
"We did a better job rotating after that," Patterson said. "Didn't allow them to just throw the ball over the top of our press."
After amassing runs of 8-0 and 9-0 in the first quarter, West nearly combined that in the second with a 16-0 surge that included back-to-back baskets from Warren-Cox, who finished with 11 points and four boards.
"It's really important to make the other team pay off a turnover," she said. "Not just today, but going forward where we know we need every shot we can get."
West led 42-18 following three straight Naaman turnovers and corresponding layups by seniors Randi Reinhardt (nine points), Devri Owens (six points) and sophomore Sydney Skinner (six points and four rebounds). The Lady Rangers ended the run with a bucket by Kaitlyn Holly, who had a matching stat line to teammate Micayla Buckner as both accounted for 10 points and five rebounds.
Buckner looked like she might go for more early, but the 6-foot-3 post was slowed as the game went on.
"We don't really go up against bigs in practice," Warren-Cox, "so this was an important test for us."
Continuing to attack with a variety of players, West upped its lead to 52-26 at the break after senior Allison Staley, who scored 13, dropped in a 3-pointer along with an and-1 in the final minute of the half.
After forcing 10 Naaman turnovers in each of the first two quarters, West pushed that number up to 11 in the third. A sloppy quarter on both sides featured another 9-0 Lady Wolves' run and was completed with West in front, 69-31, after a mid-range shot from Chou and basket by junior Kaelin Montgomery at the buzzer. In addition to giving West its largest lead at 38 points, Montgomery scored eight and grabbed six rebounds.
"Kaelin came right in, got rebounds and played good defense for us," Patterson said.
Alexis Johnson, who scored 10 in Naaman's opening playoff win over Rockwall, was scoreless Friday, though she did pick up seven boards in the 75-41 loss.
With the victory, West advances to the regional quarterfinals for a fifth straight season. The Lady Wolves, however, have lost in their previous four appearances.
"This game coming up is very important to us," Warren-Cox said. "We need to come out strong so we can win this one because we believe we can go a lot further than we have in the past."
West, which faces Mesquite Horn at 7 p.m. Tuesday from the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland, has not advanced to the regional tournament since 2006-07.
"Since the second half of district we've told the girls to play every game like it was a playoff game and we feel we are playing our best basketball right now," Patterson said. "We have four seniors and a junior starting and all of them have three years of experience, so they know what's ahead and they have that fire in their belly."