BY ROB WITZEL
“It’s always good to get off to a good start.” Westville coach Jeff Millis said after the game in his office.
While the statement seems basic, and even obvious, the importance of a good start could not have been truer Friday night. Westville owned the opening quarter, outscoring Hoopeston Area 15-2, and while the game was competitive in the other three quarters, the Cornjerkers could not overcome their early deficit and lost to the Tigers 44-27.
“We’re in the middle of the learning process.” Hoopeston Area coach Matt Colston said. “We didn’t have a good week of practice. We’ll get there but we’re just trying to figure things out right now. I think there was some confusion on the floor tonight. We made some mistakes and mistakes get magnified when you’re playing good teams and the balls not falling.”
In the opening quarter, Westville applied tight pressure on defense and moved the ball around effectively. The Tigers opened up with four points, then Hoopeston scored their only points of the quarter from a pair of free throws by Brennan Crose, before Westville would put up 11 straight.
“I thought we played a very good ball game. Our intensity was great out of the gate,” Millis said. “Robert Elliot, Tanner Cox and Jeffery Thompson did a nice job of setting the tone with the pressure they put on the ball early on.”
The second quarter was back on the competitive side. Both sides had miscues and problems Hoopeston outscored Westville 8-7 in the quarter and seemed to gain spurts of momentum especially on defense.
“We had moments where we were solid on defense. Not great but solid,” Colston said.
“The second quarter we got a little bit lazy,” Millis said. “We got beat 8-7 and our goal is to win every quarter. We got a little lazy with the ball. There was about a four minute stretch in the second where I felt we were just out of sync.”
With a double digit lead after the half, Westville extended the separation. They started with four unanswered points, allowed a 3-pointer, and then went on a 7-0 run.
Westville then started off the fourth quarter with six more unanswered points. But then Hoopeston built a streak of six points coming from four different players and all from free throws. They would tie the 4th quarter 11-11 but that first quarter difference had been monumental and ultimately led to Westville’s win.
Westville was led by Layn White and Kyle Brazus with 12 points each. Kyle Elliott was just behind them with nine. For Hoopeston Area, Daniel Lawson was the leading scorer with seven points, followed by Brennan Crose with six and Joe Warner with five.
Hoopeston Area is now 1-7 and has a quick turnaround as they will travel to play at Clifton today, while Westville (3-1) has the weekend off and will host Oakwood on Tuesday.