Westminster Christian wins regional

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Christian Liberty’s girls had answers for Westminster Christian’s presses in the early portion of Friday’s Class 1A Harvest Christian Regional title game.

What the Chargers couldn’t match with only seven players on their roster was the Warriors’ bench strength and constant energy.

Kinsley Donahue and Libbie Atchison led the bench surge that helped Westminster Christian open up the lead for good in a 62-43 championship win.

“I think we just realized we weren’t playing the defense that we know how to play,” said Donahue. “So when we came out after coach (Ken Flickinger) called a timeout, we were like, ‘All right, let’s get after it because we want it.’”

The Warriors turned up the intensity late in the second quarter for an 8-3 run that led to a 36-27 halftime lead. Then they did the same thing late in the third quarter for a 7-0 run that turned a 45-37 game into a comfortable 52-37 advantage heading into the final eight minutes.

“We were a little anxious,” said Flickinger, whose team has won two straight regional crowns. “So we were almost too aggressive. Instead of letting things happen on the floor, we were trying to pressure it. And (Christian Liberty) did a great job of passing over the top of us and getting into the open floor.

“John Wooden says be quick, don’t hurry. We were hurrying a lot in the first part of game.”

Maddie Versluys hit the boards hard again and had a game-high 21 points and 13 rebounds, but some missed easy shots she and teammates had early made it tougher for the Warriors than in most games during their current 15-game winning streak.

“I was pumped to play,” she said. “I just kind of threw it up there some of the time.”

Atchison had four points and Donahue six of her 13 points in the second quarter as they helped fuel the first surge by Westminster. Two of Donahue’s hoops and two of her four steals came in the 9-2 second-quarter that resulted in a 28-19 Westminster lead.

In the third quarter, she had a three-point play and two more steals that were big after Christian Liberty pulled within eight.

“When she came in, she had good energy,” Flickinger said. “She came off and I told her she was our sparkplug tonight.

“So we wanted to give her breaks, and when she was back in challenge her to take the ball to the hoop and create problems.”

Claire Speweik added eight points and eight rebounds and McKaila Hays eight points for the Warriors (24-4), who host the sectional Monday and open with a game against Providence-St. Mel.

The Warriors hit 10-of-20 second-half shots, mostly on layups or in close after forcing turnovers. In the first half, they had made just 14-of-33 (42 percent).

“It’s just sweet working with an amazing team and an amazing coach,” Versluys said. “It’s just so fun.”

Christian Liberty had 20 points from guard Jessica Moriarty, the defending Class 1A state three-point contest shooting champion.

“We were 17-10 and it was our best season in the history of our school,” coach Steve Rowland said. “I told the girls before the game no matter how it comes out, we had the best record we’ve ever had and we did it with seven girls.”

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