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Westminster boys basketball gets back to .500, tops city rival Winters Mill

Even though his boys basketball team was playing on the road Friday night at Westminster High School, new Winters Mill coach David Wynne was used to the environment.

Wynne played guard for Westminster High and graduated in 2000, and came over to the Falcons’ boys side after coaching WM’s girls for nine seasons.

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Wynne was a defensive-minded guard who took pride in his defense but as coach of the visiting team he watched the host Owls dominate defensively using a three-quarter court trap and tight man-to-man approach that propelled them to a 48-32 victory.

“It’s something we’ve been working on and we use it to get our energy going,” Westminster coach Steve Byrnes said. “I didn’t think we had enough energy so we went to a little bit of full-court defense and that helped pick up the intensity and it helped us on both ends turning defense into offense.”

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Westminster led 15-3 after the first quarter and never looked back.

It was Winters Mill’s first game in two weeks and the Falcons had 14 turnovers in the first half when the Owls built a 25-11 lead. The win evened the Owls’ record at 3-3 while the Falcons dropped to 1-2.

In the first quarter Westminster also made 7 of 8 free throws which gave them an opportunity to set up the press.

“We do a lot of shooting in practice with a shorter season we are starting to get the free throws going,” Byrnes said.

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The Owls also got a pair of field goals from Alan Joseph and one each from Connor Levinson and Colby Cotoia in the opening quarter. The defense held the Falcons scoreless for 7:19 between the first and second quarter.

Josh Popielski knocked down a 3-pointer with 5:38 left in the first half to break the scoring drought, and Kunal Shah added a trey later in the quarter, but Westminster maintained a comfortable 25-11 lead at halftime thanks to balanced scoring.

Erick Stranko and Cotoia had seven points each and Levinson added five in the first half for the Owls.

Winters Mill’s Tyler Sabad scored eight points in the third quarter and a switch from a man-to-man to a 1-3-1 zone defense helped the Falcons pull to within 30-20 following Sabad’s layup with 2:28 left in the quarter, but that was the closest they would get as Westminster closed the quarter with a 7-1 run.

A 3-pointer by Patrick Haynes started the surge and a traditional 3-point play by Billy Hyatt-Otovic and free throw from Levinson concluded it.

“We just had to start executing and show some more patience when they first went zone on us and after that we started getting the shots we wanted,” Byrnes said.

Stranko, Westminster’s senior captain, finished with eight points, eight rebounds, four steals, and three assists, but he was most proud of his team’s tenacious and consistent defense.

“We preach energy all four quarters, execution of defense, get to the ball with five people running around,” Stranko said. “If someone doesn’t have the right energy we can bring another kid in. If we can get five people in playing good hard defense and working hard on offense, we should win a lot of games.”

Winning aside, just playing games makes the captain happy,

“Just getting on the court is a blessing, Stranko said, “and just hanging out with teammates is great.”

Westminster (48): Connor Levinson 9, Colby Cotoia, 9, Alan Jean Joseph 8, Erick Stanko 8, Patrick Haynes 5, Liam Long 4, Billy Hyatt-Otovic 3, Mark Chatkin 2.

Winters Mill (32): Tyler Sabad 8, Kunal Shah 7, Cam Vogel 5, Nate Gelsinger 5, Jacob Hinkhaus 4, Josh Popielski 3.

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