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Westminster junior McKaila Hays dribbles while being guarded by Harvest Christian sophomore Kylee Knox on Tuesday. | Michael Jarecki ~ For Sun-Times Media
Westminster Christian’s girls basketball team can play a half-court game, but the Warriors philosophy is essentially, “why play on half the court when you can use the whole thing?”
The Warriors defense and rebounding enabled them to get off the mark and running early Tuesday on the way to a 60-21 victory over the host school in the Class 1A Harvest Christian Regional in Elgin.
“Our goal was to come out fast and strong and we definitely did that,” said Westminster junior post player Claire Speweik. “Every turnover we forced we wanted to make them pay.”
With the win, top-seeded Westminster earned a championship game matchup Thursday at 7:30 p.m. against second-seeded Christian Liberty, which beat third-seeded Elgin Academy 47-17 in Tuesday’s second game.
Speweik scored 15 points and had six rebounds while Maddie Versluys scored 12 points and hauled down 12 rebounds for Westminster Christian (23-4).
The Warriors press and half-court pressure forced 20 turnovers in the game’s first 12 minutes.
Westminster hit the boards for 10 first-quarter offensive rebounds.
“A few years ago against Hinckley-Big Rock in regionals we were victims of this sort of game and we remembered,” Westminster coach Ken Flickinger said. “Against them it seemed like we were down 10 after two turnovers.
“So we’ve sort of patterned our style after what they did.”
Westminster Christian scored nine points after rebounds and 14 following turnovers in the first quarter alone en route to a 23-3 lead.
Versluys had six points in the first quarter and after she went to the bench to rest Speweik began working her way inside and scored eight first-quarter points.
“Claire takes a little while to heat up,” Warriors coach Ken Flickinger said. “She kind of had a volleyball hangover before Christmas.
“Once she’s through that she’s a monster for us.”
Westminster then scored the first nine points of the second quarter to seal the verdict. The Warriors defense held Harvest Christian (7-20) to just 12 field goal attempts in the first half.
McKaila Hays scored seven and both Liz Meschewski and Christina Cusumano had six points for Westminster.
Sophomore guard Kylee Knox led Harvest Christian with 13 points, including three three-pointers.
“I can’t say anything but good about her fight, her competitiveness,” Harvest Christian coach Kelly Friestad said. “She didn’t give up. I’d say that about most of our girls out there.”
In the second game, Christian Liberty had problems with Elgin Academy’s defense early but its own defense held the Hilltoppers without a point until 6:27 remained in the second quarter.
In the meantime, Shelbi Hernandez (12 points), Jessica Moriarty (11), and Vivian Barclay (10) revived their offense and helped rout the Hilltoppers (10-16), who had to play without starting guard Trennedy Kleczewski (dislocated shoulder) and two other key players due to injuries.
“It didn’t help, but there was no lack of effort from the girls we had in there,” Elgin Academy coach Bill Rodriguez said.
“We finished 10-16 with so many freshmen and sophomores.
“They were used to winning at lower levels and this is a whole, new game up here, more physical, faster. I think they learned a lot this year.”
Westminster beat Christian Liberty 46-25 and 49-32 already this season.