MADISON The Westmoreland High School girls basketball team expected one of its biggest tests on Monday afternoon.
However, Westmoreland took control early on and was never threatened in a 48-27 victory over previously-unbeaten Ezell-Harding at Goodpasture Christian School’s Cougar Christmas Classic.
“Definitely, we’ve improved,” Westmoreland junior guard Lexie McCormick said. “We’re improving a bunch. We’ve gone through so much stuff, and we’ve come a long way. We’re still getting better and progressing.”
With both teams employing a full-court press, Westmoreland managed to dictate play by forcing nine first-quarter turnovers.
“We worked on the 1-2-1-1 press,” McCormick said. “We didn’t know that much about them. We just knew they were unbeaten.
“It was a big win for us.”
Westmoreland scored the first six points and led 14-4 as senior guard Haley Braswell made a 3-pointer to conclude the first-quarter scoring.
“That’s probably the biggest thing right now,” Westmoreland head coach Cherie Abner said. “They like to press, and they like to dictate. We got up early and broke their press.
“We beat them by a bigger margin than I thought we could beat them, but it could have just as easily been flipped.”
Ezell-Harding (9-1) pulled to within six points on sophomore Caitlyn Parsons’ layin with 6:30 remaining in the first half, but a pair of baskets by senior guard Jesica Eppstein helped to extend the margin back to 12 points late in the first half.
Westmoreland led 22-13 at halftime.
“It gives us a cushion, so when we do make little mistakes, we have something to bounce back on,” McCormick said of building the early advantage.
Westmoreland put the game away by scoring 13 of the first 16 points in the second half.
Smith provided three consecutive baskets, and McCormick converted on a three-point play, helping to create a 19-point margin.
The lead swelled to as much as 22 points on a free throw from Eppstein with 4:28 remaining.
Smith scored a game-high 12 points. Both Eppstein and junior forward Kaitlyn Norman provided 10 points, and McCormick finished with nine points.
Ezell-Harding was held to its lowest point total this season, having entered the contest averaging 59 points per game.
“I think we’ve gotten better,” Abner said. “I want it to show. I think it did show.
“Everything is falling more into place. We are starting to understand what we do. Early on, we were doing too much. We’ve kind of simplified things. It’s slow (progress), but it’s coming together.”
Senior guard Marci Sneed led Ezell-Harding offensively with nine points.
>> The Lady Eagles won their fourth consecutive game on Tuesday afternoon, a 62-40 victory over Nashville Central Christian on the final day of the Cougar Christmas Classic.
Westmoreland (13-2) led 18-8 after one period of play, 34-16 at halftime and 50-21 at the end of three quarters.
The Lady Eagles made nine 3-pointers, with Norman producing four in the first half.
Braswell sank three 3-pointers, and junior forward Peightyn Gross came off of the bench to hit two more.
Norman poured in a game-high 18 points, and both Braswell and junior guard Gracie Oliver scored 11 points, followed by Gross (6), Darby Bowser (5), Eppstein (3), McCormick (2), Smith (2), Sierra Bell (2) and Kailan Woodard (2).
Senior Rachel Fettig and junior Maggie Pepper led the Lady Warriors offensively with 12 and 11 points, respectively.
Westmoreland resumes play with a non-district game at Portland on Tuesday.
Reach Craig Harris at email@example.com or at 615-575-7138. Follow him on Twitter @HarrisGNESports.
WESTMORELAND (48) – Karley Smith 12, Jesica Eppstein 10, Kaitlyn Norman 10, Lexie McCormick 9, Haley Braswell 3, Gracie Oliver 3, Darby Bowser 1.
EZELL-HARDING (27) – Marci Sneed 9, Brittany Miller 6, Abby Burton 5, Caitlyn Parsons 5, Kelsey Senn 2.
Half: 22-13, Westmoreland. Three-point goals: Westmoreland 2 (Braswell 1, Norman 1), Ezell-Harding 1 (Sneed 1). Records: Westmoreland 12-2, Ezell-Harding 9-1.