Westminster’s game plan was evident no less than two minutes into Tuesday night’s Carroll County Athletic League matchup against Francis Scott Key.
Apply pressure, and then apply some more.
Brett Kanther signaled his starting five into a full-court press with just over six minutes remaining in the first quarter, and a relentless pressure ensued. Westminster’s consistent defensive attack smothered FSK throughout the better part of three quarters en route to a 71-40 win.
The Owls improved to 4-1 (2-0 CCAL) on the early part of the season, and a mix of man-to-man and zone full-court press forced errant passes, shot-clock violations, and plenty of steals.
“We come in every game with the mentality that we want to pressure the ball [and] make every pass miserable for the offense,” said Kanther. “Regardless of who we’re playing, that’s out mentality. We want to push it up the floor and we want to play in-your-face defense.”
Denio Blaney and Drue Giles lead Westminster with 11 points each. Drue also added a team-leading five steals. Michael Prozeller tallied nine points along Joe Wright, while Terrence McDonald totaled eight points and three assists.
Giles said as a player, playing a high-pressure defense can be tiring, but it’s nothing new. The senior guard noted the Owls have made the press an emphasis throughout practice.
And setting a tempo early on is the goal.
“It’s very important,” Giles said. “Coach said before the game he wanted to get a big lead … We didn’t let off the gas, we just kept pushing the ball and scoring”
Added Kanther: “We’re demanding, we expect them to play hard and with effort. “That’s what they do, they bring it.”
Key notched the first bucket but Westminster jumped out to a 11-2 lead, forcing Eagles coach Ryan Kimble and his team into an early deficit.
McDonald received an open look about one foot behind the top of the arc and got all net on a 3-pointer as the first-quarter buzzer sounded. He earned applause from the home crowd and a roar from the Owls’ bench.
Westminster took a 38-17 halftime lead and saw the majority of points scored through transition offense. Kanther noted there wasn’t much of a need for a half-court offense due to the success on fast breaks.
But when the Owls were given the opportunity, Giles’ and Blaney’s quickness created plenty of driving lanes. When defenders stepped up, passes were sent out for open looks.
Westminster saw success from long range, hitting seven three pointers.
Zach Mursch led the way for Francis Scott Key with eight points, all which came in the fourth quarter. Freshman guard Liam McGrath scored six, and Noah Vipond finished with a team-high five rebounds.
Timeouts could only provide some much stoppage for Kimble as Key struggled to break Westminster’s press. When they did, they were often left with frustrations when favorable looks rimmed out of the basket.
“We can run through every scenario in practice [but] until you see their speed … that type of game is going to be very hard for us,” Kimble said. “They have to be able to see the speed of it and they have to learn from tonight.”
“We’re going to come back and practice tomorrow, we’re going to go to the weight room … [and] we’ll try to get better as we go.”
An early-season roll for Westminster will likely be tested Friday night when they head to Century for an intriguing county battle against the Knights. The focus, however, remains the same.
“When we step on the court, we expect to win,” Kanther said. “No matter who the opponent is, no matter who we play, that’s our mentality.”
Westminster (71): Drue Giles 11, Terrence McDonald 8, Tyler Buberl 5, Denio Blaney 11, Javahn Showers 6, Joe Wright 9, Jacob Busic 6, Joey Long 2, Eric Stranko 2, Michael Prozeller 9, Christian Etchison 2.
FSK (40): Zachariah Malott 4, Greg Mullinix 4, Jake Wantz 1, Ryan Rill 6, Travis Williams 2, Liam McGrath 6, Noah Vipond 5, Zach Mursch 8, Kyle Hoeflich 4.
Halftime: Westminster, 38-17.