Many girls basketball teams might have been in a difficult situation if they started a game offensively like Westminster Christian did Monday night in the sectional semifinal on their own court against Providence-St. Mel.
Then again, not every team can play pressure defense all over the floor like Wesminster. Turnovers forced and the rebounding of Maddie Versluys staked the Warriors to a 25-10 halftime lead, and then Claire Speweik caught fire offensively in the second half to lead Westminster to a 58-25 rout of the Knights in the Class 1A Westminster Christian Sectional.
“I think we were a little jittery when we came out, a little shaky,” said Speweik, who scored 12 of her 17 points in the third quarter to match Versluys for game-high honors. “But once we got in a rhythm we were good.”
The victory puts the Warriors back where they were last year — in a sectional title game — against the winner of Tuesday’s game between Morgan Park Academy and North Shore Country Day. The title game is Thursday at 7:30. The Warriors (25-4), who have set a school record for wins, lost last year’s sectional finale on a last-second three-point shot.
“In games like this, you have to learn to adjust to circumstances,” coach Ken Flickinger said. “They started out calling the game kind of tight. It took us a little while to adjust to that.
“And there really wasn’t any real flow to the game early on.”
A disjointed, sluggish start to the contest resulted in Westminster overcoming 4-of-19 shooting from the field in the first quarter to lead 9-7. The Warriors’ press forced seven of the 10 Providence-St. Mel turnovers in the first quarter.
The turnovers kept coming in the second quarter against Westminster’s pressure — 10 more — and the Warriors gradually started sinking the layups they’d been missing early. Versluys made four second-quarter baskets and kept hitting the boards, as she went on to finish the game with 13 rebounds and 17 points in three quarters of play.
The Warriors held Providence-St. Mel to only four field goal attempts and none made in a three-point second quarter.
In the third quarter, McKaila Hays made a three-pointer and fast-break running bank-shot following a Providence-St. Mel turnover, and Speiweik, the Warriors post player, went to the perimeter and hit two three-pointers before coming back inside for three more short shots. The 23-11 third quarter turned it into a complete rout.
“I like shooting 3s, but I really haven’t shot a lot of threes this year because I haven’t really been on the perimeter,” Speweik said. “I don’t know (why), I just got open at the three-point line tonight.”
Hays finished with nine points, including seven in the third quarter, and Westminster Christian once again had a big night from its bench as Christina Cusumano contributed five points, Libbie Atchison three assista and a basket and Emma Anderson three steals.
“I can’t say enough about our bench play tonight,” Flickinger said. “Our bench came off on and numerous players did a really good job of playing under control, being patient, looking for passes. “Libbie had a nice game off the bench and Emma had a nice game off the bench — she’s been practicing well this week.
“With this group, that’s probably the hardest part is what combination of kids … if it’s their night. We can go 1-9 and they all can score when they’re confident.”
Guard Sha’Rhonda Clark led Providence-St. Mel (14-9) with 13 points.