There were times last night when it was hard to believe the Westminster Owls have just one starter returning from last year's county championship team.
Other times against visiting Sherwood, they looked exactly as an inexperienced team is expected to look in its opener.
A shaky third quarter and an inability to score down the stretch proved costly as the Owls dropped a 61-53 decision to Sherwood.
Trailing 54-47 midway through the fourth quarter, the Owls got baskets from Mark Loscomb, Russell DeMont and Steve Mays to close to within one at 54-53 with 3:30 left. They were unable to get any closer despite three good looks at the basket on ensuing trips.
With 1:32 on the clock, Sherwood's Brent Calhoun made a three-pointer to give the Warriors a 57-53 lead they would never relinquish.
"I'm pretty satisfied. We did the things we had to do to give us an opportunity to win," said Westminster coach Dave Byers.
"We had three opportunities down one where we got decent looks at the basket, but couldn't hit the shot. If one of those goes in, it changes the whole game."
After a solid first half and a particularly impressive second quarter that helped give the Owls a 37-34 halftime lead, they came unglued a bit in the third quarter when Sherwood came out with a little half-court pressure.
The Owls managed only one field goal -- a Mat Mathais jumper -- in the first five minutes of the third. It enabled the Warriors to regain a lead they never would surrender.
Forward Carlos Hill played a big role in giving the Warriors the lead. His layup at the 3:50 mark of the third gave the Warriors a 40-39 lead, and he added a three-point play later in the quarter to extend the lead to 45-41.
"I don't think it was necessarily what they did [defensively]," Byers said. "We just got in trouble by taking the ball in the corners some and didn't execute very well."
Senior forward DeMont, the Owls' lone returnee at 6-foot-7, looked impressive at times and appeared to try to do too much other times. He finished the night with a team-high 19 points and 10 rebounds.
Down the stretch, he came up big on the defensive end with blocks on back-to-back Sherwood possessions, but the Owls couldn't convert on offense.
"He protected the basket very well and came up big," Byers said. "There were times when he was trying to do a little too much, trying to score 10 points every possession, but you have to remember he's only a high school player."
Loscomb came off the bench to score 12 points and add six rebounds for the Owls.