Prep girls hoops: Westwood steals ball 18 times in season-opening win over Kingsford

ISHPEMING – In the time it takes to say her name, Elizabeth Dauphinais-VanBuren won’t just steal the basketball out of your hands.

The Westwood girls basketball senior will add in a floor-length pass to a teammate or run her way to the hoop for her own easy attempt at a basket.

And if you hesitate at all after that, either she or one of her teammates will steal the resulting inbounds pass for another quick lay-in.

The Patriots used that style of play to roll past Kingsford 65-41 in the season opener for Westwood at its gym on Friday night.

“We’re not taller than anybody we play, but the girls gave me 100 percent effort for a full 32 minutes,” WHS second-year coach Kurt Corcoran said. “We work on the little things every day, then we try to bring them all together.

“If you’d have told me we would play like this in Game 10, I’d be happy.”

VanBuren was active on defense and aggressive on offense to share game highs with 17 points, seven rebounds and four steals.

She helped Westwood finish with 18 steals, the cause of most of Kingsford’s 24 turnovers, while only losing the rebounding battle to the bigger Flivvers, 28-26.

“Elizabeth plays with more passion than anybody I’ve ever coached,” Corcoran said. “That can be a great strength and it can be a great weakness.”

These opposites appeared early as VanBuren was part of most of Westwood’s early offense in building a 10-3 lead halfway through the first quarter.

But the senior, who Corcoran uniquely lists as a guard-forward-center, also drew a pair of fouls before the game was 3 1/2 minutes old.

“I like to be scrappy, but I know I have to move under control,” VanBuren said. “I think I got those fouls at the start of the game because I was nervous.”

“Once she learns how to control that aggression, she going to an unstoppable force on the court,” her coach added.

She came out of the game for a few minutes before re-entering, and despite playing nearly all the minutes after that, didn’t draw her third foul until about three minutes remained in the fourth quarter.

Corcoran also singled out senior guard Caitlin Hewitt, who missed 14 games with a broken leg last season. She finished with 17 points, four steals and five assists.

“It’s nice to see her come back from that injury. She was making pinpoint passes and hit a couple of 3s,” Corcoran said.

“I give them all the credit,” said Kingsford coach Mike Cross, whose team opened the season with a 70-35 thumping of North Dickinson on Tuesday. “We knew what kind of game it was going to be, and I take this as a positive result.

“They’re the kind of opponent we’re not going to face very often with that much pressure, so now we know what we have to do.”

Westwood, which plays at Menominee at 8 p.m. on Monday, also got 11 points from senior Amber Salo and four points, seven rebounds, four steals and five assists from junior Gabrielle Hebert.

Despite all the steals, the intention of Westwood’s hounding pressure isn’t to cause turnovers.

“The press isn’t designed to get steal after steal after steal,” Corcoran said. “It’s designed to take them out of their comfort zone.”

Corcoran still has some work to do to reach one of his other preseason goals – consistent play throughout all four quarters. The Patriots built a 27-12 lead by the midpoint of the second period before going almost a full quarter without scoring.

Kingsford cut Westwood’s advantage to 27-23 before Hewitt hit a 15-foot jumper with 4:55 left in the third quarter. The Patriots didn’t shake the Flivvers until they went on a 13-0 run beginning late in the third to put the game out of reach.

Westwood also won the JV game, 46-39.