LONDON GROVE >> In the midst of a condensed boys’ basketball season, an awful lot can happen in the span of a week.
A mere eight points separated the Downingtown West and Avon Grove boys last week. But five days later in the rematch, the Whippets went on the road and cruised to a 65-47 victory over the Red Devils in Ches-Mont National action on Thursday.
“I think we are different team than we were last week when we first played (Avon Grove) – that was our first game of the season,” said West head coach Stu Ross.
“We are definitely making progress,” added senior guard Sean Kaiser. “After a few games and a practice, the second time around we showed that we can play together.”
The Whippets have won two in a row and improve to 3-2. The Devils fall to 0-6.
“Coming off a win against Coatesville and (an upcoming contest with) Bishop Shanahan on Saturday, I thought this could be a trap game.” Ross acknowledged.
Instead, West delivered a balanced attack combined with a defense that allowed just five made buckets in the second half, and forced a total of 18 turnovers. And it wasn’t just the number, but the kind of turnovers. A bunch came in the open floor and led to easy transition buckets at the other end.
“We know our offense will come. But we look for our defense because that leads to points,” Kaiser said.
“Avon Grove is not an easy game anytime you play them, so we knew we had to be locked in,” Ross added.
“Live ball turnovers are important for any team. If you can create those, you are happy with it. We’ve been focusing on defense because we know that that travels. Sometimes offense doesn’t always follow you.”
On the other side, Avon Grove head coach Ikeem Mays wasn’t happy with his team’s performance, particularly as it pertains to effort.
“I wouldn’t say that this shows we are not improving, we just had a bad night,” he said. “Our effort was horrible. We preach effort, but tonight we just weren’t there.”
Mays bemoaned a slow start to the game, and yet at the half, his Devils only trailed 30-23. But early in the third quarter, Kaiser keyed an 8-0 surge with a three-point play and a three-pointer to make it 42-29, and Avon Grove never recovered.
“Once again, mental errors led to our turnovers, but it was mainly our effort,” Mays said. “We still have to play our game and be better.
“Our number one issue tonight was that when we made mistakes, we didn’t do what we usually do and sprint back and make it up on defense. We just gave up on it sometimes.”
The Whippets went on to score the first seven points of the fourth quarter, and then closed it out forcefully, knocking down 11 of 15 from the free throw line. Kaiser was 6-6 in that stretch and finished with a career-high 18 points.
“I expect that from Sean,” Ross said. “He can do that night-in and night-out.”
Sophomore point guard Dylan Blair added 17 points, senior Ryan Dever chipped in 13 and 6-foot-9 sophomore center Jake Warren had nine points.
“We have four or five guys that can get 20 on a given night, so it’s hard to defend us,” Kaiser pointed out.
“That is kind of how we envisioned our offense,” Ross added. “Getting more games under our belt is helping the guys feel more comfortable.”
Reece Ziegler and Ben Houghton paced the Devils with 13 and 11 points, respectively. Avon Grove did get to the free throw line 28 times, but connected on just 18.
“(West) wanted it more than we did,” Mays said. “Every time there was a 50-50 loose ball, they sprinted to the spot and our guys hesitated. And once we missed a few shots, we got into our own head, and our own head defeated us.”
The heart of the regular season slate is fast approach for the Whippets, and it starts this weekend against first-place Shanahan.
“We play them Saturday-Monday, so we have to be ready to play,” Ross warned.
Downingtown West 65, Avon Grove 47
DOWNINGTOWN WEST – Blair 6 3-4 17; Dever 5 2-2 13; Hardin 0 0-2 0; Kaiser 4 8-8 18; Miree 1 1-2 3; Primanti 1 0-0 2; Scott 0 0-2 0; Suarez 1 0-0 3; Warren 4 1-1 9. Totals 22 15-22 65.
AVON GROVE – Hunter 1 3-6 6; Glatts 2 0-0 4; Houghton 2 6-7 11; R. Ziegler 4 5-6 13; Violette 1 1-3 3; Newman 3 2-4 9. Totals 13 18-28 47.
Downingtown West 15 15 16 19 – 65
Avon Grove 9 14 9 15 – 47
3-pointers: Blair 2, Dever, Kaiser 2, Suarez, Hunter, Houghton, Newman.