Westhill boys use suffocating defense to bottle up Warde
The Westhill boys basketball team giveth, and taketh away.
The Vikings committed 20 turnovers but forced Fairfield Warde into 23 turnovers during Westhill's 64-38 win on Tuesday.
Westhill's victory showed how the imperfect Vikings are improbably the last unbeaten team in conference play,
Westhill forced 13 turnovers during the pivotal second quarter run, in which it outscored Warde 23-5.
"At this point if this is what we have to do, than that's what we are going to do," said Westhill coach Howard White.. "As long as we continue to play defense we are going to be all right. It's all about defense."
With the second half of the regular season now under way, White said that despite his team's 10-1 record, including 9-0 in the FCIAC, he does not feel his team is being taken seriously just yet.
"Those who want us to fail, we are aware of that," White said. "That's what we use to keep us going. You look at the two All-Staters we had last year, they didn't expect Westhill to be where we are at right now. We just have to keep playing hard. You don't have to have superstars to have a good team."
Tony Dobbinson and Chris Walters have moved on, replaced by former role players and promising sophomores who have thus far blended together surprisingly fast.
Jeremiah Livingston, a highly touted first-year starter, led a balanced attack against Warde with 14 points. Guyveson Cassamajor added 10. Six other players contributed between 5 and 8 points.
"We feel if we play good defense, we will just turn it into transition baskets," Livingston said.
That was the formula for the second quarter, when Westhill outscored the Mustangs, 23-5, to open up a 35-17 halftime lead.
The Mustangs (3-9, 3-7 FCIAC) may have been taken out of their comfort level by having the game moved across town to Fairfield Ludlowe after damage from leaks to their own gymnasium, but it was the Vikings' relentless traps that really threw them out of synch.
"That was basically our downfall. They took us out of what we were trying to do," Warde coach Ryan Swaller said. "And on the offensive end they did a good job of penetrating our zone and finding the open guy. Our rotation wasn't there."
Max Garrett finished with 11 points and Mark Byrne added 9 for Warde.
The Mustangs got off to a good start, weathering a 10-2 run to come away with a 12-12 tie at the end of the first quarter.
But the Vikings then went into overdrive, coming up with steals on three successive possessions that resulted in layups. They had 10 field goals in the second quarter and there were assists on 8 of them.
"We do a good job of looking for each other," Livingston said. "I have to admit I didn't think we'd be this good with who we lost, but we all share the ball."
When it was suggested that most fans could not name one of his players, and that was a positive, White agreed.
"We don't have that one player you can talk about," White said. "That's the main difference between this team and the ones over the years. These kids take defense seriously and they turned it up tonight when Warde started knocking down shots. If you let a team get comfortable, it's going to be a long night."
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WESTHILL 64, WARDE 38
WESTHILL (10-1, 9-0)
Jeremiah Livingston 6 1-2 14; Terrell Middleton 2 1-2 5; Yveson Cassamajor 2 2-2 6; Yveson Cassamajor 2 2-2 6; Guyveson Cassamajor 4 0-0 10; Ariel DeLaCruz 4 0-0 8; Marquis Giddiens 1 0-0 3; Evan Skoparantzos 3 0-0 6; C.J. Donaldson 3 0-0 6; Jesse Kuretz 0 0-0 0; Jordan Young 0 0-0 0; Peter Horn 0 0-0 0; Luke Harriett 1 0-0 2; Nick Longo 1 0-0 2; Nygel Belzaire 1 0-0 2. TOTALS: 28 4-6 64.
FAIRFIELD WARDE (3-9, 3-7 FCIAC)
Hunter Smaldone 0 0-0 0; Mark Byrne 4 0-2 9; Terrance Walden 2 1-3 5; T.J. Tracey 1 0-0 2; Tommy Luckner 0 0-0 0; Max Garrett 4 1-2 11; Josh Dow 1 0-0 2; Nick Cotto 2 0-0 4; Giacomo Brancato 1 0-0 3; Brian Kerrigan 0 0-0 0; T.J. Gallagher 1 0-0 2; Chris Smaldone 0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 16 2-7 38.
WESTHILL 12 23 16 13--64
WARDE 12 5 14 7--38
3-point shots: W--Livingston, G. Cassamajor 2, Giddiens; FW--Byrne, Garrett 2, Brancato