Westminster senior guard Sydney Popielski talks about the team's win over Manchester Valley.
Everything is clicking for the Westminster Owls girls basketball team these days.
They’re winning at home, on the road, and against pretty good teams.
Westminster used excellent perimeter and free-throw shooting, along with some tenacious defense, to defeat two-time reigning county champion Manchester Valley 63-58 Friday night.
The win moved the Owls to a perfect 11-0 overall and 5-0 in the county — their best start to a season in more than 20 years.
“They are getting better each time out,” said Westminster coach Dave Urban, whose team is 4-0 in the county. “When they get to the point where they understand how good they can be, it will be fun to coach them and not have to stand back and yell so much.”
Westminster senior guard Sydney Popielski totaled 18 points and four assists. She finished with three 3-pointers, including two in the second half.
Owls freshman forward Sophie Diehl had a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds. Diehl came into the second third in Carroll in scoring at 12.3 points per game
Manchester Valley senior point guard Mackenzie DeWees, the county’s leading scorer, had 18 points on a 6-for-20 shooting performance from the field. DeWees, who has missed time with an ankle injury, averages 26.1 points.
She didn’t play in the first matchup Jan. 2, a 52-44 Owls win. Westminster’s win Friday put it in sole possession of first place in the county standings.
Manchester Valley (9-3, 4-2) had trailed since late in the second quarter, but cut the lead to 53-52 with 6:33 remaining on JoseyKlingenberg’s layup.
The Mavericks, however, struggled the rest of the way. They went 2-for-11 from the field and went through a scoreless stretch of nearly four minutes.
Westminster led 61-56 when the Mavericks’ Amelia Saunders hit a 3-pointer to trim the margin to 61-58 with 59 seconds to go. Manchester Valley didn’t score again, however, and Popielski’s free throws with 14 seconds left sealed the win.
“Westminster played a very good game,” Man Valley coach Heather DeWees said. “They simply outplayed us. We didn’t convert some shots (in the fourth quarter) and that hurt us.”
In the middle of the third quarter, Owls took its biggest lead of the period, 46-37, on a Jillian Pumputis layup about a minute later. Manchester Valley, however, put together a 7-0 spurt to trim the deficit to 46-44 with 4:30 left.
The Owls held a 50-47 lead at the end of the period.
The Mavericks raced out to a 7-3 lead in the first four minutes of the game as the Owls committed five turnovers during that stretch.
Westminster tied the game about three minutes later at 7 on a Sarah O’Donnell free throw and Popielski 3-pointer.
DeWees scored the Mavericks last six points of the quarter as her team took a 16-14 lead at the end of the period. Klingenberg scored the first five points of the second quarter as Manchester Valley took a 21-16 advantage in the first minute.
The Mavericks boosted their lead to 29-18 with 4:54 remaining on Saunders’ 3-pointer. But the Owls used a 9-0 run overt the next 1:02 — which Popielski highlighted with a three-point play — to trim the margin to 29-23.
And Westminster closed the first half with a 15-3 spurt to take make it 38-32 — the halftime score. Popielski had five points during that sequence and eight in the half.