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High school girls basketball: Westlake’s defense leads its charge to 7th straight win

Westlake and Springville compete in a high school girls basketball game in Sandy on Friday, Dec. 17, 2021.
Westlake and Springville compete in a high school girls basketball game in Sandy on Friday, Dec. 17, 2021.
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

SANDY — For three straight seasons, the Westlake girls basketball team prepared for its region season by testing itself against California schools at a tournament near Sacramento.

The Thunder won nine of 10 contests, and beat the hometown school, Placer, twice in a row on its home court. Coach Michael O’Connor said the trip, which also included visits to the Bay Area, the Redwood Forest and a Golden State Warriors basketball game, were among the highlights of those seasons.

The chance at another tournament trophy ended last year due to the pandemic, but Westlake still had a strong season and reached the quarterfinals at the 6A state tournament.

O’Connor again had to juggle his preseason schedule year, and his team is again impressing opponents — this time at the Beetdigger Classic, a three-day tournament splitting time between Westlake and Jordan high schools.

On Friday afternoon, Tessa Chaney scored 15 points and the Thunder defense limited Springville to three first-half points en route to a 31-19 win to improve to 7-0 this season.

“Defensively, we played really well,” O’Connor said. “We wanted to do something to disrupt them and take them out of what they wanted to do.”

The Thunder defense has been outstanding so far, giving up only 25.3 points per game. This time, Westlake utilized a 1-2-2 zone defense and used the height of the 6-foot-3 Chaney underneath, as well as 6-foot-2 Jill Lungren and 5-foot-10 Kaylee Headrick on the perimeter, to thwart Springville’s shooting.

Springville couldn’t solve Westlake’s defense, and often held the ball for 1-2 minutes. The Red Devils were rarely successful, shooting just 24% shooting, and fell to 5-4 playing a difficult schedule that has included many of Utah’s other top teams, such as Fremont, Skyridge, Lone Peak and Olympus.

Springville coach Holly Averett said she believes in challenging her squad before the region season, but admitted Westlake’s size was too much.

“I think our tallest girl is maybe 5-8,” she said. “We’re a gritty team. We were out of it by half, but we played hard to the end.”

Ellie Esplin provided most of the offense with nine points, and Kayla Porray added five. Springville’s highlight came in the third quarter when it cut Westlake’s lead to 12 points.

However, due to the game’s slow pace, the Devils were unable to gain any momentum and Westlake recovered.

“Springville likes to press, but you can’t press if you don’t score,” O’Connor said. “Our offense wasn’t great either, but it will come around and, in the meantime, our defense is so good.”

The Thunder will try to continue their unbeaten streak when the tourney hosts play Saturday at Jordan. The Thunder will continue to try to test themselves at another tournament in Cedar City before the region schedule begins in January.

“We want to be at our best at the end of the season, and these tournaments give us a lot of games to get better,” O’Connor said. “I just wish we had more of them around here.”