Nobody really knew what to expect out of Westview coming into the 2020-21 season. The departure of father and son duo Rob and Charlie Yoder opened a lot of doors, but also raised so many questions. Surviving without an all-time great coach and all-time great player was simply not going to be easy.
Good thing that Ed Bentley doesn’t care much for just surviving. The current Westview coach would rather thrive. And thrive the Warriors have, beating Lakeland on Tuesday night to tighten a stranglehold on the Northeast Corner Conference.
Surprise! Westview basketball didn’t go anywhere. And they’ve answered their critics quickly by dispatching the Lakers, Churubusco and Central Noble already this season. Nothing has been won but everything has been gained as the Warriors head into the holidays as one of the hottest teams in all of Northeast Indiana. They weren’t going to succeed playing a new style, some of their detractors said. Can this school really push out a winning team under an intense style that is referred to as Bentley ball?
The Warriors have found their success by blending both: an old school offensive set laden approach and the fervent Bentley-ball that brings high pressure and wild but controlled limbs that attack passing lanes.
That has been never been more evident that Tuesday night’s 70-50 win over Lakeland, where they never lost control of the game against the previously unbeaten Lakers.
It took Lakeland over three minutes to even score, letting the Warriors out to a 6-0 lead before Ben Keil hit a triple. The Warriors probably could have been out to a bigger lead if they really wanted because they certainly had Lakeland’s number on the defensive end. Instead, they were taking their time in their offensive sets, which really didn’t allow Lakeland to get comfortable on their own offensive end; that has been a hallmark of the melding of styles. The Warriors are constantly able to get after it on the defensive end, just getting a hand on everything and then coming down and running through sets for as long as they need for nearly wide open scores at the rim on back cuts and off screens.
The constant movement on defense really thwarted Lakeland leading scorer Brayden Bontrager, although he did finish with a team high 17 points. He didn’t, however, score for almost the first five minutes of the game and he also scored just two points in a third quarter that Westview won 19-8 to seize total control.
What I really love about Westview’s game is their desire to alter the path of the basketball at every available turn. A successful defense is certainly one that gets into passing lanes, gets deflections and creates loose ball opportunities. But Westview doesn’t just rest there. If there is a rebound that is out of reach for them to get two hands on and haul in, they still work tirelessly to get a tip and to alter the falling motion of the ball to create better chances for their teammates to collect the rebound. Those small touches of the basketball altered their win over Lakeland as much as anything else. Doing the little things in an intense way is about the best melding of styles that the Warriors could ask for.
And it means they don’t have to overcompensate offensively. The Warriors took a 30-22 lead into halftime despite taking just four shots in the quarter by being able to take their time and use superior court vision to make those attempts count or to draw a foul at the rim. Westview hit their first 14 of 18 free throws on a night where they ended up shooting 38 shots from the line.
Mason Yoder, who led Westview in scoring with 17 points Tuesday, pushed the lead past 20 points in the third quarter. And despite a Lakeland rally, the Warriors were able to fire back time after time, again never letting the Lakers get much solid footing on their own home court. With 5:22 to play, a Caleb Cory and-one play from the left block was the perfect punctuation on Westview’s nearly untouchable status once they got into the paint.
Westview coach Ed Bentley tweeted on Tuesday night after the win: “I absolutely love my guys! Simple as that!”
Who wouldn’t? Westview has built a decades long legacy by doing the right thing. Bentley-ball has not changed that, just sent it into warp speed. And every night that they can stymie a high level opponent in the NECC, the Warriors just become that much better and that much scarier for the conference foes that still await on the schedule.
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