CAPE ELIZABETH – Westbrook’s Mikayla Van Zandt led her girls to victory at Cape on Thursday, Dec. 22, putting up 17 – including eight in the critical third quarter, when the Blazes outpaced their hosts and pulled away in what had been, to that point, a neck-and-neck race. 52-34 the final.

Westbrook head coach Todd Day remarked on his expectations for the matchup: “I expected [Cape] to run the floor,” he said. “They’re quick; they get up and down. I knew they were going to press, and we didn’t handle the press very well in the first half – we handled it much better in the second half. It didn’t bother us in the second half at all. That allowed us to settle down, get into our offense, and run what we needed to run. In the second half, it made a huge difference.”

The teams traded blows through the first quarter: Van Zandt opened the scoring, but Brooke Harvey answered; Julia Martel hashed two more for the Blazes, but Kelly O’Sullivan answered; and so forth. Westbrooker Julia Symbol closed the stretch with a three to lock the scoreboard up at 11-11.

The opponents matched each other through much of the second as well: A Symbol three plus a Van Zandt two put the Blazes up 19-15 midway through the quarter, but Caper Zoe Preble responded with a deuce of deuces to pull her girls even again. A Logan Tibbetts buzzer-beater gave Westbrook the narrow edge, 24-21, at the break.

The Blazes roared to life in the third, walloping the home team for 20 points. Symbol – already with two threes to her name on the night, tallied two more – while Van Zandt notched eight on a trio of twos and two from the line. For their part, the Capers managed just seven in the quarter, and thus found themselves deep in a hole as the home stretch approached.

Day pointed to a pair of key Westbrook adjustments from the first half to the second. “Two things,” he said. “We really picked up the defensive intensity on the ball, and that made a huge difference – it forced them out of their set offense; and then, offensively, we moved the ball instead of dribbling it. We moved the ball around the perimeter, we got good looks, and then we had open shots, we took our time and we knocked ‘em down. Offensive rebounding was a big part of that; we had a pretty big size advantage down low, and Mikayla and Logan did a good job on the glass.”

The Blazes’ lead proved insurmountable for Cape in the waning minutes: The Capers defended their guests admirably, holding them to a mere eight through the stretch – but they earned just six of their own for the 52-34 result.

Beyond Van Zandt’s 17, Symbol contributed 13 for the Blazes (on four threes and a free, no less). Julia Martel added 10, Tibbets five, and Morgan Rice and Nyagoa Bayak two apiece. Harvey and Preble led for Cape, each adding six. 

Day praised his girls: “Julia Martel is not really our point guard, but she handles the ball 80 percent of the time anyway,” he said. “She did a great job of keeping us in the game, in the flow, in the first half, when we didn’t have much of a flow on offense. She had a couple big shots. So she played a huge game for us.”

“We really had contributions from 11 players tonight, which was nice,” Day said. “When we do that, we’re going to be a tough team to beat.”

The win bumped No. 8 Westbrook to 2-3 on the season; the Blazes slipped to 2-4 vs. Marshwood on Dec. 23rd. They host No. 7 Falmouth (3-2) on Tuesday the 27th and Morse (currently 11th at 1-4) on Tuesday the 3rd.

Cape, meanwhile, fell to 0-5. The Capers welcome Fryeburg (fourth at present, 3-2) on the 3rd.

Westbrook’s Logan Tibbetts beats Cape defender Elise Mullen.

Westbrooker Avery Tucker ascends toward the net; Caper Allison Ingalls defends.

The Blazes’ Julia Martel lofts a ball toward the net.

Nyagoa Bayak drives through the paint.

Mikayla Van Zandt led Westbrook’s attack last Thursday, scoring 17.

Zoe Preble drives toward the net for Cape; Westbrooker Julia Symbol defends.

Westbrook’s Avery Tucker reels in a rebound and surveys her pass options; Sammi Guerette harangues her from behind.