The West Geauga Wolverines girls basketball team is finally back on the court. The team had to wait a long time to start playing again after the beginning of the season was delayed. All athletics were paused for close to four weeks due to precautionary measures because of the pandemic.

The team is going through some growing pains to kick things off. The Wolverines are dealing with some injuries to their core players but also have to work out the kinks because they couldn’t practice together during the shutdown. It showed on Jan. 23 as West Geauga dropped a nail-biter to the visiting Magnificat Blue Streaks by a 50-48 score in Chesterland last Saturday afternoon.

The Wolverines trailed by just one point in the final minute of regulation. They tried to pressure the ball and almost forced a turnover with 30 seconds left in the fourth quarter but the Blue Streaks were bailed out as head coach Danny Gallagher called a timeout just before the Wolverines could take the ball. West Geauga had no choice but to foul Magnificat with 11 seconds left. Blue Streaks’ senior Clare Chambers drained the first and missed the second but the Wolverines failed to box out allowing Magnificat to secure the rebound and run out the clock.

West Geauga had a tough time matching up against the Blue Streaks. The team has begun the season without its senior point guard Nicole Erhbar. She’s been sidelined for about four weeks after having to undergo surgery to remove a bone spur from the top of her foot. The Wolverines have turned to their underclassmen to help fill the void.

Then head coach Bob Buetel opted to sit out the season due to health concerns because of the pandemic. This thrust assistant coach Greg Dugger into the head coach role. Dugger is more than up for the challenge as he has spent 30 years playing for and working with Beutel and is installing the same offense his mentor teaches.

West Geauga scored the game’s first points on a jump shot by sophomore guard Athena Hocevar. That was the last time the Wolverines led in the game as they scored just one more point in the first quarter. It was one of those times where the team missed its floor general Erhbar.

“You’ve got new people at new spots and even though it’s the same offense we’ve always run,” said coach Dugger, “The physicality of Magnifcat showed as they stepped into the passing lanes. We couldn’t get into good sets and missed a ton of lay-ups. You just can’t miss lay-ups.”

Sophomore guard Alexa Hocevar scored five points to help spur a comeback in the second quarter but rolled her ankle at the midway mark and had to leave the game. That put even more pressure on the underclassmen and the Blue Streaks took advantage by using their length and physicality.

The Wolverines’ offense struggled as they committed 23 turnovers through the first three quarters. The team played gritty defense to keep the game within reach and tightened up its ball security in the final quarter by not committing a single turnover. Unfortunately, West Geauga fell just short.

“We were in a two-three for most of the game and did a pretty nice job rotating and covering their three-point shooters but we had to put a little ball pressure on in the last five minutes of the game to get it close and it was just helter-skelter. Run at it, try and trap and cause some havoc,” coach Dugger said.

Alexa Hocevar’s injury is not deemed serious and she is expected to be back within a week while Erhbar is eying a return to the court during the same time frame. As challenging as things have been so far the Wolverines have a lot to be hopeful for.

“It’s about getting continuity because we haven’t had all the kids together at once so just getting back and getting a flow. We’ve got kids stepping in for people,” said coach Dugger, “It’ll help us later on because the young ones are getting forced into playing time and that’s only going to help them but our biggest problem is just not having all players available.”

Athena Hocevar led West Geauga with 15 points, three rebounds, one assist, two steals and one blocked shot followed by junior guard Meghan Zebrowski who had ten points and one steal. Junior Cameron Jones was the Blue Streaks’ leading scorer with 15 points and Chambers was second with 14 points. The Wolverines will travel to Gates Mills to face off against Chagrin Valley Chagrin Conference rival Hawken on Saturday afternoon.

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