Westminster coach Dave Urban said it’s important to focus on building a successful team defense early in the season.
His Owls girls basketball players did just that in their Carroll County Athletic League opener Friday against Manchester Valley, and the hosts won 46-32.
The Owls closed out the first quarter with a 7-0 lead over the Mavericks, thanks to points from four different players — Jillian Pumputis, Maddie Olexy, Sophia Diehl, and Zoe Costley.
Costley, a senior forward, scored a game-high 14 points and added 10 rebounds for the Owls (3-1, 1-0 county).
“They played a great team defense tonight,” Urban said. “In the second half, we threw the ball a little erratic but there’s not enough possessions in the game. That’s what I kept telling them at the time out, there’s not enough possessions in the game unless we throw the ball away in the first five seconds. If you get the ball controlled, bring it over half-court, you get a decent shot.
“You don't even have to hit the shot, there’s not enough possessions left if we just control the game that way. They did really well and the offense is only going to get better. Now, there’s still some things they’re not timing-wise ready, but the defense was really on point tonight.”
The Owls held the Mavs to just six points after the first half in an impressive defensive effort by the reigning CCAL champions.
“The past few weeks [assistant coach Shawn] Minnier has really been forcing defense on us and that’s been the biggest focus for us,” Diehl said. “Coach Urban always says defense leads to offense so if we play really good defense, our offense will come.”
Urban said Minnier brings an intense defensive approach to the team, and it’s something the girls each have the skill sets to set forth on the court. When the players work together to be aggressive on defense, it should be difficult for opposing teams to garner those quality shots.
The Mavs’ shots were limited as the Owls continued to press. Costley sparked a 7-0 run late in the second quarter to help the Owls gain a 20-6 lead at the break. Diehl, a sophomore forward, buried a 3-pointer early in the third frame and Costly netted four more points to extend the Owls’ lead to 27-6.
Man Valley got into double digits in the third quarter and kept playing hard, but Westminster continued to pull away.
Amelia Saunders scored nine of the Mavs’ 13 points in the final quarter, and she buried them all in a row. Senior forward Ellie Boswell hit a 3 to close out the scoring, and the Mavs held the Owls to nine points in that frame. Josey Klingenberg scored six points and added 10 steals and four assists, and Saunders had 10 points for the Mavericks (2-2, 0-1).
Man Valley is gradually making its adjustments after losing two senior leaders in Annie Saunders and Mackenzie DeWees, Carroll County’s all-time leading scorer.
“Tonight, Westminster played a good game and came out to play basketball and the people who needed to play well did so that was huge for them,” Mavericks coach Heather DeWees said. “We were down by 14 at half and we had a terrible offensive showing. We rallied from that and played better in the second half and we lost by 14.
“I told my kids at halftime that we want to win the second half, let’s win the second half because you can’t win the game if you don’t win the second half. We have to play offense the entire game, I thought we played a great defensive effort.”