It wasn’t the most stylish first-round victory, but Westwood girls basketball coach Gregory Bauldrick saw enough good things to walk away pleased.
Mya Belton led three Redhawk players in double figures with 18 points Tuesday night to help propel Westwood to a 64-36 victory against Airport, but it was the defense that stole the show.
The Redhawks limited the Eagles to 3-of-28 shooting from the field in the first half that included one stretch during which Airport missed 20 consecutive shots.
“We wanted to try and run all of our defensive sets, so we threw a lot at them.” Bauldrick said. “We saw a lot of bright spots there because we know Friday night is going to be a tough test.”
Westwood (21-3) advances to the second round of the Class 4A playoffs Friday night at Greenville, a 63-42 winner against Blue Ridge.
While the Redhawks defense was doing a number on Airport in the first half, Belton, Unique Drake and Malayziah Etheredge did the bulk of the work offensively. The trio combined to scored 52 of Westwood’s points, including 27 of the 33 first-half points to give Westwood a 33-13 lead at the half. Those three scored all of the points in a decisive 17-0 first-half run.
Drake, an all-state selection, and Etheredge, a freshman, each tallied 17 points.
“We started slow, but once we got it going, we felt comfortable,” Bauldrick said.
Belton thought the defensive effort spurred the offense.
“Our defensive energy helped,” Belton said. “We wanted to come out quick and get a lead on them and let our energy be the biggest thing.”
Airport coach Jacob Thompson said the first half stretch that saw the Eagles go scoreless for nearly six minutes was a backbreaker for his young squad.
“Part of it was they’re a long team,” Thompson said. “Even when you think you have a good shot, they come back to contest it. After a while, the feeling was they were going to be there, and it got into our heads.”
The efforts of Belton and Drake have been consistent all season, but Etheredge is getting more comfortable in her role. The Redhawks have had some injuries, so Etheredge’s minutes have increased.
“It was next man up,” Bauldrick said. “Malayziah was that person. She’s done a magnificent job for us trying to fill that role.”
One thing Bauldrick knows his team has to get better at is rebounding. Airport (12-11) dominated the glass, and if they could have converted a few more shots early on, it could have been a contest that came down to the wire.
“We thought early on we were in position, but some of the balls were coming off the side of the backboard at different angles and they got them,” he said. “We didn’t get to the 50-50 balls either. We have to be better at that on Friday.”
Westwood 64, Airport 36
A – Caliegh Corbitt 12, Darby 7, Candelano 5, Washington 5, Jackson 5, Henning 2. W – Mya Belton 18, Unique Drake 17, Malayziah Etheredge 17, Leveretter 6, McCants 4, Lockett 2.