Down got the Pioneers: Westlake Demons cruise past Elyria Pioneers, advance to district final

MORNING JOURNAL/JIM BOBEL Westlake’s Gavin Skelly, right, blocks Elyria’s Ronnie Smith’s shot in the first quarter in a Division I Grafton District Semifinal at Midview on Thursday night. Westlake won, 70-55.

MORNING JOURNAL/JIM BOBEL Westlake’s Gavin Skelly, left, gets high fives from his teammates after being taken out of the game late in the fourth quarter of the Division I Grafton District Semifinal. Skelly finished with a triple-double.

MORNING JOURNAL/JIM BOBEL Westlake's Gavin Skelly, right, hugs Elyria's Kody Bender after the the Division I Grafton District Semifinal. Westlake defeated Elyria 70-55.

MORNING JOURNAL/JIM BOBEL Elyria's Kody Bender fouls Westlake's Bryan Mackenzie in the third quarter in a Division I Grafton District Semifinal.

EATON TWP. — Going into their big district semifinal game against Elyria, Westlake head coach Shawn Hood told his team the same thing he has all season — as long as you shoot with confidence and play with playoff-intensity, we can live with the mistakes and missed shots.

His team responded by doing just that, overcoming 26 turnovers, 17 in the first half, en route to hard-fought 70-55 victory over the Pioneers.

“I’m so proud of my guys right now. Beach, Skelly, Mackenzie, Turk ... everyone. They all stepped up and played huge tonight,” Hood said. “They played with confidence and played smash mouth basketball. There are no secrets about it, that’s what we do.”

The intensity was evident from the start, as both teams were playing so hard, neither could get much going offensively.

Despite five turnovers in the first three minutes, Westlake jumped out to a 10-3 lead fueled by six quick points from Makis Beach.

The Demons were absolutely dominant on the defensive end early on, as 6-foot-8 junior Gavin Skelly blocked five shots in the first five minutes of the game. Skelly finished the game with a triple-double, with 10 points, 10 blocks and 12 rebounds.

When he wasn’t blocking shots, Skelly was guarding Elyria’s standout guard Isaiah Walton.

Walton, who averages 19 ppg, started off 0-of-6 from the floor with the lengthy Skelly all over him.

“We wanted to give Walton a different look, so I decided to put Skelly on him for a while,” Hood said. “He still ended up getting his points, but I thought Gavin did an outstanding job on him, making him work for everything he got.”

The one negative for Skelly in the first quarter came with a minute left, as he picked up his second foul of the game.

At the end of a slow first quarter for the Pioneers, Walton gave his team some hope, hitting a buzzer-beater from the opposite free-throw line to pull his team within four, 12-8.

The second quarter started off a lot like the first for Westlake, with five quick turnovers.

Kody Bender’s steal and jumper tied the game at 12 early in the second.

With the game so close, Hood rolled the dice and left Skelly in the game throughout the second quarter, despite the foul trouble.

It paid off as Skelly avoided picking up his third and the Demons used an 8-0 run to take a 36-23 lead into halftime.

The second half didn’t start off well for Westlake.

Just five seconds in, the Demons turned the ball over, and Skelly quickly picked up his third foul.

Minutes later, Skelly picked up another foul, his fourth, and was forced to sit the rest of the quarter.

Elyria took advantage of Skelly’s absence, going on an 11-2 run that cut Westlake’s lead to just four, 42-38.

The Demons responded to Elyria’s push, as Beach and senior Bryan Mackenzie took the game into their own hands, scoring a combined 12 points in three minutes, to remain in the lead going into the fourth quarter, 50-43.

“With Gavin down and them making a run, I knew we had to step up and hit some shots,” Beach said. “Coach had confidence in me and I was able to get in a rhythm. It felt great.”

Bender and Walton closed the gap to three, 50-47, with four quick points early in the fourth.

Beach quickly responded with another huge three to put Westlake back up 53-47.

Elyria got within three points when Bender converted a hoop plus the foul, but the Pioneers were unable to get any closer.

Once Skelly returned, the Demons went on an 11-2 run with two big baskets from Mackenzie to take a 64-52 lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

Bender finished with a game-high 27 points, as he finished an outstanding four-year career at Elyria.

“Hats off to Westlake, they earned this one,” Elyria coach Brett Larrick said. “We didn’t play well early on and it cost us. It’s hard losing this senior class, it was a very special one. Bender, and all those guys, will truly be missed.”

The Demons earn the right to a rematch against rival Brecksville for the district championship Saturday night.

“It feels great to get another shot at Brecksville,” Hood said. “The last time we played them, we didn’t have our entire team, I’m glad we get a crack at them with everyone back.”

Westlake 70, Elyria 55

Division I Grafton

District Semifinal

Westlake — Bryan Mackenzie 7-5 19, Shawn Turk 2-6 10, Danny Strodtbeck 1-4 6, Gavin Skelly 5-0 10, Makis Beach 6-3 19, Jamie Lackner 3-0 6. TOTALS 23-21-70.

Elyria — Kody Bender 10-5 27, Dontae Dukes 0-2 2, Isaiah Walton 7-2 18, Anthony Duckett 1-0 2, Tavon Kurtz 1-0 2, Ronnie Smith 0-2 2, Jarred Schultz 1-0 2. TOTALS 20-11-55.

3-POINT GOALS — W: Beach (3); E: Bender (2), Walton (2).

Score by Quarters

Westlake (16-8) 12 24 14 20 — 70

Elyria (18-6) 8 15 29 12 — 55

Team Statistics

Field Goals — Westlake 23 of 47 (48 percent, Elyria 20 of 71 (28 percent).

Free Throws — W 21 of 26 (80 percent), E 11 of 14 (78 percent).

Rebounds — W 47 (Skelly 12), E 31 (Kurtz 7).

Turnovers — W 26, E 14.


Last Updated: 3/7/2013 11:47:35 PM EST

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