By MIKE ECKERT
---- — TRAVERSE CITY — It suddenly clicked for Traverse City West.
After struggling in a 29-16 loss to Manistee on Monday, the Titans bounced back in a big way Thursday with a 49-26 Big North Conference victory over host Traverse City Central.
It was a season-high point total for the Titans (8-12, 8-4 BNC).
"We looked at the film from the first game and they didn't do a lot of things differently, so we drilled on the situations," Titans coach Dave Ginsberg said. "We thought we could drive. We did penetrate and get some shots, so I'm thrilled with our offense tonight. We've had such a difficult time scoring points."
West heads into the playoffs on Monday at Alpena in the Class A district. Central (4-14, 3-8 BNC) has a bye into Wednesday's semifinal, but will first wrap up the regular season on Saturday at Ogemaw Heights.
"We lost a tough game to Manistee, but we came in here and shook it off," Ginsberg said. "I think we're capable of playing good at Alpena. In the state tournament, anything can happen. Anybody can beat anybody. We just have to prepare and get off the bus right after a long trip."
A key for the Titans in the win Thursday was finding the easy basket. The team tallied 16 assists, with many coming on wide-open looks under the basket.
"West did an outstanding job of making the extra pass all night long," Trojans coach Ryan Knudsen said. "We made them work most of the night, but they just did an excellent job of working the ball around. They were patient until they found someone on the backside. I tip my hat to them. They played an outstanding game and broke our defense down."
"At practice, we try to find the easiest basket we can," West sophomore Katie Placek said. "We look for open jump shots, but when we can, we're getting lay-ups as much as possible."
Placek was a big part of it. While she was held to just six points as Central ran a box-and-one on her, she finished with five rebounds, four steals and four assists.
"Really what it is is distributing for me," Placek said. "When I'm being pressed like that, I try to get other teammates involved and get them feeling good."
"That's what she's done all year," Ginsberg said. "When she's having a tough night offensively, she's doing everything else. She did a great job on (Tyler Rawlings). She rebounded, she moves the ball. She had a good game."
West opened the game with a 16-8 lead in the first quarter. That came off 10 points from Kimmy Bilinski, who knocked down two 3-pointers late in the quarter to close out the scoring.
"We haven't shot all year, so that was huge," Ginsberg said. "We've been on her all year to shoot them. If you're open, shoot the shot. Even if you miss it, it helps the flow of the game. She's a junior, so she's still learning."
The Trojans were still in it in the second quarter, but in the final minute, Placek came up with a big spark. On back-to-back Central possessions, Placek stole the ball around midcourt and took it to the other end for a layup and a 30-14 lead at the half.
"I haven't gotten a lot of steals in the season, but I was feeling it," Placek said. "I knew we needed it and the push to take momentum into the second half."
Bilinski finished with 12 points while Paris Wagner had 12 points and seven rebounds. Kiley Kreple and Lauren Ellison each had six points.
Madi Bankey led Central with eight points and five rebounds. Freshman Jesse Hiemstra had six points.
"The second season is coming," Knudsen said. "We have a couple of extra days of practice to get ready and improve on some of the areas we need to improve on."
In the JV game, Central won 34-32 as Katie Ludwig hit a shot under the basket with 3 seconds left for the victory. The Trojans (12-6) had 14 points from Kelsey Acton and six points from Mikhaila Shepler while the Titans (7-13) had 17 points from Carley Drzewiecki.
The Trojans rolled to a 71-29 win in the freshman contest and finished with a school-record 17-1 record. Central had 14 points each from Julianna Chang and Sierra Fraser while Abigail Green and Emily Jenkins had 10 points. Makenna Mattson had nine points for the Titans (10-8).