Zack steps up when University needs it most

Eric Luis/Special to The SF ExaminerUniversity sophomore Alana Zack stepped up and scored a season-high 23 points to lead the Red Devils over Drew on Thursday.

Eric Luis/Special to The SF ExaminerUniversity sophomore Alana Zack stepped up and scored a season-high 23 points to lead the Red Devils over Drew on Thursday.

Drew School’s girls’ basketball team accomplished a key part of its game plan Thursday night: The Dragons took University center Amelia King out of the game.

Drew attacked the paint, got the 6-foot-1 senior into foul trouble and limited her to a season-low seven points, but University sophomore guard Alana Zack more than picked up the slack.

Zack, who averages 5.5 points per game, scored a season-high 23 points to lead the Red Devils to a 56-32 Bay Counties League West win at University High School.

“This gives us confidence and the team recognizes that it’s not all on [King],” University coach Jason Montana said. “We have some capable players, and they had an opportunity to see it tonight.”

Zack connected on 8-of-12 shots from the floor to lead the University offense, but it was the Red Devils’ defensive effort that frustrated the Dragons throughout, forcing 25 Drew turnovers, 16 coming from University steals. The turnovers fueled a potent University (14-1, 2-0) fast-break offense that got easy transition baskets throughout.

“They really hurt us in transition and that’s something we’ve been working on,” Drew coach Nick Whitmore said. “We’re on the road against a good team and we’re still learning how to play in that environment.”

Along with the turnovers, the Dragons (9-4, 0-2) shot just 22 percent from the floor and scored under 10 points in every quarter except the third.

King, an inside force on both ends of the floor, averaged 19.4 points, 10.1 rebounds and 4.1 blocks heading into the game, but sat on the bench for most of the middle quarters and only attempted four shots in the game.

King still had four blocks, but as the best player in the league, Montana knows teams will target King to eliminate the Red Devils’ most significant advantage.

“She has to understand that she can’t block everything,” Montana said. “She’s had a couple of games where she’s had double-digit blocks, and that’s great, but I’d rather she give up the two points or make them shoot over her than put them on the free-throw line and her on the bench.”

For Drew, which will likely finish with its highest win total since the 2005-06 season, the process of building a program will not be easy in the hyper-competitive BCL West.

“I like our team and we’re preaching to the kids that we’re trying to change the culture that we’re a bottom-feeder,” Whitmore said. “There will be bumps in the road, but it’s how we respond.”

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