With a move that is reminiscent of last season's playoff surge, Westlake High nailed down its fifth consecutive victory Friday, defeating Royal, 61-44, to move into second place in the Marmonte League.
With first place all but conceded to Simi Valley, the tension this season has focused on the rest of the pack, which has become a little more congested since Westlake's emergence. The Warriors, who started slowly last season before advancing to the final of the Southern Section 4-A Division playoffs, have rallied behind first-year Coach Greg Hess. Westlake, which started the league season with three consecutive losses, is 12-8 overall and 5-3 in league play.
"We're beginning to play better roles now," Hess said. "I thought we had the strength to go inside and out equally, but I was wrong. We've got to establish our inside game and we took it in deep tonight."
Said Westlake forward Kevin Logan: "It took time to adjust to a new coach. We had to get used to his style."
Westlake's front line of Logan, Bill Fassl and Kurt Schwan combined for 44 points, twice as many as its Royal counterpart.
After leading at halftime, 25-17, Westlake took control of the game in the third quarter with 21 points on 9-of-14 shooting. Schwan single-handedly outscored Royal in the quarter, 12-11.
Schwan finished with a game-high 19 points, followed by Logan with 17. Fassl added eight.
"Kevin Logan just had a great game. He posted up real well and we got the ball inside to him to use our size," Hess said.
After winning just one game last season, Royal (10-9, 3-5) was the league's surprise team in December, winning the consolation championship of two tournaments. But with its third consecutive Marmonte defeat, the Highlanders head into Monday's game at Simi Valley needing a victory.
"Obviously when you have one or two Division I players on a team like Simi Valley does, it's a stacked team," Royal Coach Joe Malkinson said. "But I think that 7-5 goes to the playoffs and 6-6 might. Until we're mathematically eliminated, we're not quitting."
John Loder led Royal with 16 points, and J. P. Ouellette came off the bench to score eight, including two three-point shots.
Westlake, which has a bye Monday, also plays its next league game against Simi Valley. The Warriors face the Pioneers Wednesday .