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Cats close on in berth to playoff

The Wildcats need one more win, or a Sunset loss, for a playoff spot
by: JONATHAN HOUSE, WORKING IT — Aloha’s Cassandra Tiggett drives through the Westview defense last Thursday night.

ROCK CREEK - With one game left in the Metro girls basketball season, Westview kept itself in the thick of the playoff hunt after Thursday's victory against Aloha.

The Wildcats started slow, but steadily picked up the pace for a 53-37 win at Westview High School once they settled in behind their press defense, which forced 33 turnovers.

'Defense is the key to every game we play,' said Westview senior Ari Bradley. 'We can't have an off night on defense. If we can't hit our shots, we can always fall back on our defense. It gets us in the flow and in a rhythm.'

And it negated Aloha's height advantage, restricting the Warriors from ever settling into their half-court offense with the Wildcats' press often keeping the Warriors from crossing mid-court.

'That's what we do it for; to take them out of their game,' Wildcat wing Erin Bochnak said. 'At halftime we talked about how defense wins games. We needed to step it up and knew we could do better.'

The result was a third quarter in which the Wildcats pulled away and closed on a 8-0 run to build a 44-26 lead. Westview did so by forcing turnovers then quickly moving upcourt behind a high-energy offense that looked to run at every opportunity.

'We knew they'd try and slow us on offense,' said Bri Nelson, one of seven Westview seniors honored before their final home game. 'They're good when they get into a half-court game. We wanted to run them and wear them out.'

The game plan started to take shape early in the second quarter when the Wildcats, who never trailed, took advantage of numerous turnovers, quickly converting them into points. Senior wing Jasmine Rose and Bochnak each scored fastbreak layins around Bradley's banked-in three-pointer from the top of the arc as Westview built a 29-15 lead with 4 minutes, 15 seconds left in the first half.

Aloha finished the first half with 21 turnovers and made 8-of-21 shots to fall behind 31-20.

'We were hustling and getting everywhere and being in their face,' Bradley said.

Westview converted just 4-of-29 shots in the second half, but maintained its defensive pressure to keep the Warriors from narrowing the gap.

Aloha got as close as 10 points when freshman Sade Elliott buried a three-pointer and freshman Heather McFarland's steal and fast-break layin made it 36-26 with 3:00 left in the third quarter. But the Wildcats closed the frame on an 8-0 run to take its largest lead of the night at 44-26.

Westview guard Kelley Pullin started the spurt by hitting a three-pointer, while junior Jackie Nared closed it with a layin off a Nielsen assist.

Nared paced the Wildcats with a game-high 16 points, while Bradley added 10 points for Westview, which had 11 different players score. The victory improved the Wildcats to 16-8 overall and 4-5 in Metro play - one game ahead of Sunset for the fourth and final playoff spot. Westview closes the regular season today (Thursday) at league-leading Jesuit.

Senior Erica Ellerbrook led the Warriors with nine points, while senior Cassandra Tiggett chipped in seven points. Aloha remained winless in Metro play at 0-9 and fell to 9-13 on the season, which it concludes at home today against Sunset.