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Girls Basketball: Westminster hangs on to clip Manchester Valley in Carroll County opener

Lillian Harris played as a freshman at Westminster High School before transferring to St. John’s Catholic Prep in Frederick.

Two seasons in the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland gave Harris a taste of quality private-school basketball, but the Westminster native felt the pull to return home and set out to enjoy her senior season.

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She came back to an Owls’ varsity team that included three freshmen and two sophomores, and graduated a 1,000-point scorer from a year ago. But Harris said Westminster is jelling and having fun so far, and it’s showing on the court.

The Owls overcame a slow start Thursday and built a double-digit lead against Manchester Valley, then withstood the home team’s late charge to prevail 43-38.

Harris, one of three Westminster seniors, had 14 points, 16 rebounds, three steals, and three blocks. Meghan Ruth, one of the Owls’ sophomores, added nine rebounds, and pulled down a big defensive one with Westminster (3-2, 1-0 Carroll County Athletic League) nursing a five-point lead late in the fourth quarter.

Westminster's Meghan Ruth, right, is fouled by Manchester Valley's Amelia Saunders after collecting a rebound during a girls basketball game at Manchester Valley High School on Thursday, Dec. 19.
Westminster's Meghan Ruth, right, is fouled by Manchester Valley's Amelia Saunders after collecting a rebound during a girls basketball game at Manchester Valley High School on Thursday, Dec. 19. (Brian Krista/Carroll County Times)

Ruth added 11 points while senior guard Mallory Phillips had five steals.

“Of course we want to win ... but I think with our team goals we try to limit turnovers, we try to get rebounds, make defensive stops, steals,” Harris said. “It’s more about winning the next game than, ‘We want to go undefeated.’ We’re more worried about what we can do to win the game.”

The Mavericks (3-2, 1-1) led by eight points early on and Westminster struggled to find any offensive flow. The Owls committed seven turnovers through the first 12 minutes before gathering themselves for a big turnaround.

They held Man Valley without a field goal in the second quarter. Sophomore Kylie McWilliams drained a 3-pointer. Ruth converted a three-point play. And Emily Davis’ layup with 1:30 to play in the first half gave the Owls a 25-18 lead at the break.

Westminster's Meghan Ruth, left, sprints down the floor with the ball, as Manchester Valley's Tessa Boswell gives chase during a girls basketball game at Manchester Valley High School on Thursday, Dec. 19.
Westminster's Meghan Ruth, left, sprints down the floor with the ball, as Manchester Valley's Tessa Boswell gives chase during a girls basketball game at Manchester Valley High School on Thursday, Dec. 19. (Brian Krista/Carroll County Times)

Westminster coach Dave Urban credited Davis, a junior, with coming off the bench and playing solid defense when his team needed it in the early going. Davis finished with four steals.

Senior guard Amelia Saunders tried to keep the Mavericks close, even when they trailed 40-27 with less than 6 minutes to play. Saunders, who came into Thursday’s game averaging 22 points per game, scored six in the fourth quarter.

Josey Shaffer canned a 3-pointer from the right corner with 1:05 to go, cutting Westminster’s lead to 41-38. The Mavs then sent Owls guard Maddie Olexy to the free-throw line at the other end, but the senior missed the first of a one-and-one.

Harris was there for a crucial rebound, however, and after another missed free throw she scored on a putback with 24 seconds remaining to extend Westminster’s lead.

Harris gives the Owls their post presence, but Urban said his forward does more than that.

“It’s the presence in the locker room, at practice, and getting ... all the younger ones a little more comfortable with what they’re capable of,” Urban said. “If you make a mistake, there’s somebody like [Harris] behind them to pick up the block, pick up the charge, get the rebound.”

Westminster's Abby Kindle, center, tries dishing a pass to a teammates as Manchester Valley's Kendall Reitz, right, and Carmaya Bowman (20) defend on the play during a girls basketball game at Manchester Valley High School on Thursday, Dec. 19.
Westminster's Abby Kindle, center, tries dishing a pass to a teammates as Manchester Valley's Kendall Reitz, right, and Carmaya Bowman (20) defend on the play during a girls basketball game at Manchester Valley High School on Thursday, Dec. 19. (Brian Krista/Carroll County Times)

Harris averaged 16.8 points and 5.0 rebounds through her first four games back with Westminster, and she’ll be looked upon this winter to try and fill the void left by graduated all-county forward Zoe Costley (16.6 ppg, 8.8 rpg last season).

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Her time spent at St. John’s helped make her a better player, Harris said, but she seems just as eager to grow this season with the Owls.

“Coming [back] here, I think it’s really good because there’s no major drop-off,” she said. “The girls here go just as hard, and everyone here was really welcoming. I think that this county is going to be really good, and it’s not just going to be an easy walk in the park this year. We’re going to have to really try hard, and a good example was tonight.”

Westminster (43): Lillian Harris 14, Meghan Ruth 11, Maddie Olexy 5, Emily Davis 4, Mallory Phillips 3, Kylie McWilliams 3, Carlie Rosewag 2, Emily Conlkin 1.

Man Valley (38): Amelia Saunders 14, Kassidy Johnson 9, Josey Shaffer 6, Grace Warner 5, Tessa Boswell 2, Rylee Breeding 1.

Halftime: Westminster, 25-18

JV result: Westminster, 58-29 (Kirsten Whitehead 23 points).

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