Akron-Westfield girls end five-year drought against MMCRU
REMSEN — Akron-Westfield’s girls basketball team had played MMCRU tough throughout most of their games in the past five seasons, but could never seem to find a way to pull out a victory at the end.
“In the last four years, we have lost to them last year in the tournament down by just one with a couple minutes left. A few years ago we lose on a last-second shot, a bank-shot, so it’s kind of nice,” A-W Head Coach Kent Johnson said of finally getting a win over the Royals.
The Westerners finally prevailed over their War Eagle Conference foes on Tuesday by a 60-48 score, ending a 10 game losing streak in the series and picking up their first win over the Royals since a 45-41 victory in January 2018. The Westerners came up just short by a 41-38 score in their conference-counting matchup earlier this season.
MMCRU held an early 5-2 lead, but the Westerners went on a 14-0 run from there to take control of the game. Most of the damage was done by Makenzie Hughes who sank a 3-pointer to start the run and got a steal and old-fashioned three-point play to give the Westerners the lead. After a triple from Allie Swoyer, Hughes came back with a layup and another 3-pointer to cap off the run.
“Makenzie, she hit a lot of good shots. She felt hot, she started shooting,” MMCRU Head Coach Gillian Letsche said. “We needed to change our defense up, be a little more aggressive on her. We failed to do that in the first quarter. I think that’s where it really got to us.”
Hughes ended the game with 27 points in the win. She added two more 3-pointers before halftime as she finished 4-of-5 from beyond the arc in the game. She ended 8-of-12 overall from the field and made all seven of her free throw attempts. Along with her scoring numbers, she added a team-high five steals and chipped in seven rebounds and three assists.
Kennedy Tentinger finally got the Royals back on the scoreboard in the final minute of the opening quarter with a layup. The double digit deficit by the end of the first quarter, following a rough start against Remsen St. Mary’s the night before when they trailed 21-2 after the first eight minutes, is something Letsche said the Royals need to get better at so they aren’t always playing from behind.
“Even against St. Mary’s, we just had a bad first quarter. The second and third quarters, we outscored St. Mary’s,” Letsche said. “The same thing here, that first quarter just sucked. We’ve just got to figure out how to overcome that first quarter, that first five minutes to punch and get going and get that grit in that first quarter. We’ll figure it out, we always do, it’s just a matter of time.”
A couple 3-pointers from Kora Alesch and Avery Schlenger helped the Royals hold steady in the second quarter as they cut the deficit by two by halftime from what it was entering the second quarter.
At the intermission, Letsche said one of the main focuses was trying to figure out how to slow down Hughes, who already had 23 points by halftime. The Royals were able to keep Hughes mostly quiet in the second half as she added just four points after the break.
“We held her to four points in the second half. I think we finally figured it out, it was just a little bit late,” Letsche said. “We switched to a box and one. We’ve never done that before, but the girls figured it out and they were able to deny her the ball as much as we could.”
The attention on Hughes did open things up for the rest of the team as Boe Harris ended with nine points on 4-of-5 shooting, Alyssa Nemesio concluded with eight points and Lainey Schuknecht picked up six points. Addison Naslund and Swoyer added four points apiece while Naslund led the team with eight rebounds and Swoyer led the team with seven assists and added seven boards.
“I’m happy with our scoring. Makenzie came out the first half and scored really well. Then it was nice to see our other girls score points as the game went on. Every girl contributed tonight,” Johnson said. “Some nights it happens where everything goes in and then another night nothing would go in. You’ve just got to keep shooting because it’s going to go in sometime.”
The Westerners built up their lead by as many as 22 points in the fourth quarter, but Johnson still wasn’t totally comfortable.
“I knew the 20 point lead wasn’t going to hold because they have a couple nice players that can really play basketball,” Johnson said. “They’re used to playing good basketball. We had to stop them. We took our chances tonight because we knew we couldn’t let Alesch score all the points for them.”
The Royals cut into that lead as Jadyn Young knocked down a couple fourth quarter 3-pointers as she finished with 15 points in the game, just one behind team-leader Alesch. It was a season-scoring high for Young.
“We’ve been waiting for it. We knew that she had it in her, she’s just got to do it. I’m really proud of Jayden tonight,” Letsche said.
For the Westerners, they improve to 5-8 on the season. Johnson said it was the most complete game of the year for the team as they reached their season scoring high. Still, there’s work to be done.
“We just haven’t put a whole game together. This was the first time we almost put four quarters together,” Johnson said. “We have ups and downs and lulls. We’ve got to get rid of some of the lulls because that’s when they are fighting to come back.”
Letsche said focusing on the positives will be key after losing consecutive games for the first time this season as her team dropped to 7-4 with the loss.
“A lot of it has to do with focusing on the positives. What did we do right. What are those things that we did right so can replicate that,” Letsche said.