The goal for the Westlake boys’ basketball team each night is simple. Hold the opponent under 50 points with a tenacious man-to-man defense, and the Wolverines know they will score enough points to win.
Westlake has attained that ambitious milestone only three times in its first 12 games, but has come close enough to earn nine wins so far and emerge as one of the best teams in the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference.
“Our defense has been working well and that’s the main reason we’ve had some early success,” Coach Ed Mouton said. “The kids are committed to it.”
Mouton — a longtime assistant at Westlake in the 1990s and early 2000s — returned this season to the Waldorf school after five seasons as an assistant at neighboring North Point, where the Eagles used a similar aggressive, ball-swarming style to win the 2011 Maryland 4A championship and make a return appearance in last season’s state semifinals.
A 94-60 loss at North Point earlier this month showed Westlake (9-3, 2-0 SMAC) still needs more seasoning to perfect its defensive style against top-level opponents, but in three other games since winter break — all wins — the Wolverines have allowed an average of just 51 points per game.
“Some of the things North Point does, we’re doing it and just bringing it to the Westlake program,” Mouton said. “We’re not as good as North Point yet, but it’s the same concepts we’re trying to do.”
Westlake has been led by its veteran backcourt of seniors Charles Clark and Phillip Jackson, who Mouton said have helped ease the transition for a team playing under its third head coach in three seasons.
Clark, a point guard, is averaging 11.7 points, 3.7 assists and 2.1 steals per game, while Jackson has scored in double figures in eight of his last nine games and is averaging nearly two steals per game.
In a wide open Maryland 3A South region, a first region title since 2001 is becoming a realistic possibility.
“The main thing for us is preparing to be ready for anything,” Mouton said. “With our success early on, our main thing is just to try to keep it going.”