Westminster’s preparation for Wednesday’s Class 3A East Region 1 final against Marriotts Ridge came down to poring over a good bit of game film, and Owls coach Dave Urban said his girls made plans to stop a pair of forwards in senior Emma Morath and junior Emma Miller.
The Mustangs’ frontcourt tandem combined for 11 points, but teammate Kendall Bryan took the opportunity to showcase her 3-point shooting skills.
Westminster contained Bryan for most of the second half, but the senior’s 16 minutes of play proved to be the difference in Marriotts Ridge’s 39-37 win to claim its second regional title in four seasons.
Bryan finished with 17 points, a game high, and sank four of her five 3-pointers in the first half.
“We knew [Bryan] could shoot, we didn’t know she could [make five 3s],” Urban said. “They just are a very sound team.”
Westminster’s four-game winning streak came to an end in a game that oozed defense and physical play from the start. The Owls (16-8) trailed by six points with 39 seconds to play, but had a chance in the final ticks to win it.
Coming out of a timeout, junior Savannah McWilliams’ bank-in 3 from the top of the arc, rolling off a pair of screens, cut Marriotts Ridge’s lead to 38-35. After a free throw from Mustangs guard Natalie Held at the other end, Owls senior Lillian Harris scored from close range with 4 seconds to play.
Bryan then drew a foul and went to the line, but missed the first free throw in a one-and-one situation, and Westminster snagged the rebound before using its final timeout.
Marriotts Ridge (18-7) had fouls to give but chose to let things play out — Owls senior guard Mallory Phillips had a heave from near half-court that caromed off the glass as time expired, and the visitors held on.
The Mustangs held Westminster just below their season average in points allowed (37.2), a source of pride for coach Sarah Miller’s squad.
“We try to grind them down, a little Virginia-esque, really,” said Miller, referring to the reigning NCAA men’s basketball champs. “They don’t get second-chance shots and they don’t get those things that allows us what we need to do.”
Bryan banked in a long 3 of her own to close out the first quarter, and Marriotts Ridge led 11-9. Westminster had a one-point lead with 1:58 remaining in the frame; the Owls likely didn’t imagine they’d never grab another lead the rest of the way.
Harris, who battled foul trouble throughout the contest with teammate Meghan Ruth, said Westminster expected a low-scoring affair. Harris said the Owls were prepared, and made adjustments to limit Bryan in the second half.
“We just went into the locker room at halftime and we were saying, ‘This is our last home game no matter what,’” said Harris, who finished with 10 points and three steals. “I think we did play pretty well on defense in the second half.”
Bryan had three points after halftime, but they came from the near corner with a 3-pointer that put the Mustangs ahead 35-30 with 5 minutes to go.