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‘Playing for a lot,’ Westminster girls basketball gets by South Carroll for needed Carroll County win

Westminster had plenty of motivation to play well Tuesday against rival South Carroll.

The Owls were coming off a loss last Friday, Feb. 7, against Liberty that created a tie atop the Carroll County Athletic League standings. The Lions stumbled Monday, however, in a loss to Manchester Valley, giving Westminster a chance to regain sole possession of the county championship chase with the season winding down.

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Plus, the Owls recognized their three seniors ― Lillian Harris, Maddie Olexy, and Mallory Phillips — before their rematch with South Carroll, which beat Westminster on Jan. 14.

More than enough at stake for the home team, which withstood a second-half barrage from the Cavaliers to win 44-35.

“Every time they made a run, we would just talk to each other and say, “We’ve got it. We have to keep our heads in it,'” said Harris, who scored a game-high 19 points. “We’re playing for [playoff positioning] and we’re also playing for counties. So we were playing for a lot tonight.”

Westminster (13-7, 9-2 CCAL) built a 20-point lead in the first half and led by 17 at the break before South Carroll put together a charge. The Cavaliers (5-15, 4-7) applied pressure on defense and forced turnovers, particularly in the fourth quarter.

But the visitors couldn’t complete the comeback despite nine points from freshman Shannon McTavish and six from Rachel Tackett. McTavish had five points in the fourth quarter.

The Cavs defeated Westminster 49-39 last month, which sent the Owls into a mini-funk (three losses in four games). Westminster responded with three consecutive wins before falling at home against Liberty last week.

The Lions (8-3 CCAL) won six in a row until Man Valley knocked them off Monday. They have Century on Friday, Feb. 14, while Westminster finishes its county slate with city rival Winters Mill on the same day.

“They withstood the onslaught,” Owls coach Dave Urban said about his players’ performance Tuesday. “It’s still kind of a blending of freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors. So, seniors making the right decisions, and then a freshman seeing that decision and responding, going to the right place and so then there’s a layup.”

Carroll County has three teams in action Wednesday, Feb. 12, and two of them are hosting regional tournaments. Semifinal rounds start at 5:30 p.m., and the winner face each other to follow.

Meghan Ruth, a sophomore, pulled down 14 rebounds for Westminster, while Harris grabbed seven. Junior guard Jillian Pumputis handed out five assists, and Phillips had three steals. Olexy scored eight on Senior Night.

The Owls committed eight turnovers in the fourth quarter, mainly the result of South Carroll’s defensive tenacity. But they did enough to handle it and post a much-needed win.

Westminster can win its second CCAL title in three seasons with a win Friday, and more victories can only help the Owls secure a good seed in the upcoming Class 3A East Region 1 playoffs.

“The thought of winning counties is a really great thought," Ruth said. “And us working as a team to get here is an accomplishment.”

South Carroll (35): Sydni Carroll 3, Lauren Habighorst 6, Rachel Tackett 4, Paige Abbott 4, Shannon McTavish 9, Sydney Hill 5, Sarah Vaught 2, Caelin Stromberg 2.

Westminster (44): Lillian Harris 19, Abby Kindle 3, Emily Davis 3, Maddie Olexy 8, Meghan Ruth 5, Mallory Phillips 2, Jillian Pumputis 4.

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Halftime: Westminster, 27-10.

JV result: Westminster, 49-39.

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