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Westminster captures Carroll County girls basketball title with win against Winters Mill

Heading into Friday night’s game against Winters Mill, Westminster’s girls basketball team knew it had a second chance at winning the Carroll County Athletic League title outright.

The Owls narrowly lost to Liberty on Feb. 7, putting the teams in a tie for first place heading into the final week of league play. But the Lions lost to Manchester Valley three days later, and the Owls’ win over South Carroll a day later put them back atop the CCAL standings.

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Against the Falcons, Westminster made sure it would be the only county champion, building a 24-point halftime lead in a 46-30 win.

“Our coaches told us that second chances don’t come often,” Owls senior forward Lillian Harris said. “When we saw [Liberty] lost it all gave us that mindset of we can do this and we can come together as a team and play that much better on defense and offense.”

Harris has been the catalyst all year for the Owls (14-7 10-2 CCAL), but has found another gear over the past week. She scored 19 points against the Cavaliers, then had a game-high 20 against Winters Mill.

A look at all the Carroll County Athletic League girls basketball players who are averaging 8.0 or more points per game.

After battling foul trouble in the team’s first matchup, Harris scored at will early and often. She asserted herself after a few slow possessions for Westminster early, scoring the team’s first seven points. In the second quarter, she hit all four of her shots, bringing her total to 15. That was more than Winters Mill (5-14, 4-8) scored in the entire first half.

“Lilly is one of those girls who just has the sense of, ‘OK I need to take over,’” Westminster head coach Dave Urban said. “She had a couple of those moments today. Things were a little slow in the first quarter and she made the right rolls, the right cuts and fortunately our girls on the outside were finding her on the outside leading her to the basket.”

The Falcons adjusted by putting a box-and-one and double-teaming Harris in the second half, but by then the game was out of reach. It also didn’t stop Harris from making an impact on the defensive end as well, as she had six blocks and three steals. Westminster dominated inside in the first half, making it difficult for Winters Mill to score around the rim while taking advantage of second-chance opportunities.

The Owls defense allowed them to blow open the game in the second quarter. The Falcons were sped up by Westminster’s press, which forced six turnovers. It didn’t get much easier in the half court, as they missed nine straight shots to open the second quarter. The Owls capitalized, going on a 21-0 run that turned a five-point game into a 26-point blowout.

“We try to make that our identity,” Harris said of her team’s defense. “Tonight that really came out.”

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Winters Mill's Madison Harmening makes a charge towards the hoop with Westminster's Meghan Ruth defending on the play during a girls basketball game at Westminster High School on Friday, Feb. 14.
Winters Mill's Madison Harmening makes a charge towards the hoop with Westminster's Meghan Ruth defending on the play during a girls basketball game at Westminster High School on Friday, Feb. 14.(Brian Krista/Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Westminster didn’t bring the same intensity in the second half, though it didn’t make much of a difference thanks to the stellar first half. Winters Mill trimmed the deficit to 17 with two minutes remaining in the third quarter, but a three-point play by Harris with 6.2 seconds left in the frame squashed any hope of an unlikely comeback.

Madison Harmening and Allie Cullison led Winters Mill with seven points apiece. Maddie Olexy handed out four assists for Westminster, and Harris and Emily Davis each grabbed four rebounds.

Urban said it was a good experience for his young team to play with a big lead, especially with postseason play right around the corner. The Owls have three freshmen and two sophomores on their 11-player roster and try to play everyone if the game and opponent allows.

“We’re trying to tell them when you have a big lead your possession the other team has to get 3 possessions,” Urban said. “So the quicker you make a mistake or turn the ball over that gives them the opportunity back. If you take your time, focus on what you’re trying to accomplish then you’re going to get the time you need.”

Winters Mill (30): Madison Harmening 7, Allie Cullison 7, Allison Louque 4, Sophia Barnes 3, Riley Morano 3, Veronica Paylor 2, Cheslea Acha 2, Becca Thompson 2.

Westminster (46): Lillian Harris 20, Jillian Pumputis 14, Maddie Olexy 5, Meghan Ruth 5, Mallory Phillips 2.

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Half: Westminster, 35-11.

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