In a game that matched two of the top-ranked high school teams in the Valley, Simi Valley managed a 71-57 win over Westlake on Wednesday night.
After a close first half, Simi Valley, ranked No. 1 by The Times, pulled ahead in the third period and coasted to its 14th win in 15 games this season.
"We didn't come out to play in the second half," Westlake Coach Roy Gilmore said. "Their offensive rebounds really hurt us. Our big guys didn't come to play. That put us in trouble."
Before the game, Westlake's 6-8 center Dave Heckmann said he looked forward to going up against Simi Valley's 6-8 center Don MacLean. Afterward, he appeared less enthusiastic.
Heckmann scored just four points. MacLean led the Pioneers with 19. Perhaps more significant was MacLean's board work. He grabbed a team-high 12.
"Our defense was the key," the sophomore center said. "We picked up our intensity in the second half and we ran the ball more. That helped us."
In the closing minutes of the first half, Simi Valley Coach Bob Hawking switched his defense from a man-to-man to a zone. The move confused the Warriors.
Westlake was unable to penetrate and, in fact, the team seemed content to bomb from outside. The problem was, the Warriors were sending up bricks and air balls.
That resulted in a lot of rebounds for Simi valley's big men, forward Shawn DeLaittre also had 12, and plenty of fast breaks for the Pioneers.
Westlake tried to slow the pace by fouling, but Simi Valley managed to convert its free throws and the game was, more or less, over mid-way through the fourth period.
Said Hawking: "Our primary defense this season has been a man-to-man. But we thought we'd show a little zone to see how they would handle it."
The coach was hardly overwhelmed with his team's showing, despite the one-sided score.
"MacLean is a key for us, but he didn't play particularly well. Overall, it wasn't one of our better performances." Then he added, "But we'll take it."
The win upped Simi Valley's Marmonte League record to 2-0. The game was Westlake's league opener.
Besides MacLean, the Pioneers got scoring from De Laittre, who finished with 18. Guard Todd Johnson had 14, most of which came on free throws in the third and fourth quarters.
Paul Keenan led Westlake, scoring 18 points. James Henderson added 14.
The game was worth watching for the first half anyway. It started at a quick pace. Both teams pushed the ball up the court and neither team hesitated to shoot.
Simi Valley jumped to a 4-0 lead on baskets by MacLean and DeLaittre. The Pioneers went ahead, 6-2, on a drive by Johnson.
But Westlake came back to take a 10-8 lead after two Keenan shots and a long jumper by Greg Smith.
The game remained a two-point contest until Keenan gave Westlake a three-point lead on a three-point play. The Warriors led, 23-20.
But the Pioneers ran off nine unanswered points to lead, 29-23. Momentarily, De Laittre took control.
After being fouled, the 6-4 sophomore converted two free throws. He then drilled a 17-foot shot. And after a Westlake turnover, he finished a fast break with a layup.
Simi Valley went to its zone defense. The game stayed relatively close until midway through the third quarter, when the Pioneers built their lead to 11 points, 44-33.
Westlake had one last run at the end of the third. The Warriors cut the Simi Valley lead to 46-40, but that was as close as they would get.
"We had an off night shooting," said Keenan. "And when our big guys fouled out in the second half, they really beat us on the boards."
Both Heckmann and 6-4 forward Steve Zeiss fouled out for Westlake.
The Warriors fell to 10-4 overall, 0-1 in league.