Westminster struggled throughout most of the first three quarters last night. In the fourth quarter, however, the Owls put it all together.
And Liberty fell apart.
Charles Van Horn and Russell DeMont combined for 20 of host Westminster's 28 fourth-quarter points, and the Owls held Liberty to one basket on the way to a 60-47 victory in a Carroll County and Central Maryland Conference game.
Westminster (7-11, 3-1 in county, 5-4 in CMC) could not get going offensively through three quarters. The Owls made only 14 of 40 shots in that stretch and trailed 35-32 heading into the fourth.
Liberty (6-11, 2-3, 3-5) took a 36-35 lead on Eric Brown's free throw 20 seconds into the quarter. Westminster then took its first lead since the first quarter when DeMont (18 points, nine rebounds, six blocks) hit a driving layup with 6:07 left.
That started a 9-0 run for the Owls. DeMont scored eight of his points in the quarter, and Van Horn pitched in with 12 of his game-high 28. Van Horn made eight of 11 from the line in the quarter as the Owls slowly increased their lead on the way to a third consecutive win.
"We attacked [Liberty's] man-to-man well," said Westminster coach Dave Byers. "We controlled the defensive glass, and we got some good looks at the basket."
Westminster, in fact, held Liberty to two offensive rebounds in the fourth quarter. And when the Owls got the ball, they usually did something with it. Westminster scored on 13 of its last 15 possessions (hitting 16 of 23 free throws in the quarter) and dictated the tempo, something it could not do earlier.
"When we execute our offense and run through, we get a good look at the basket and a good shot," said Van Horn. "When we execute the offense [is] the key."
The loss of forward Josh Gursky hurt Liberty. Gursky injured his ankle in warm-ups and did not come into the game until the second quarter. But he reinjured it and went out with 5:20 left in the third quarter, never to return.
"[The problems] started when Gursky went out," said Liberty coach Scott Kohr. "The fourth quarter is when they smelled it."
And the Owls certainly did something about it. Westminster switched from a 1-3-1 zone in the first half to a man-to-man in the second half. The Owls stepped up the pressure outside and bottled things up inside with the help of 6-foot-7 DeMont and Chris High (eight points).
Liberty missed eight of nine in the fourth quarter, and scored only five baskets in the second half. Still, the Lions stayed in front until the 9-0 run from Westminster.
After falling behind 8-1 at the start, Liberty rallied to take a 12-11 lead after one and a 24-22 lead at halftime. Brian Trone scored nine of his team-high 12 on three three-pointers in the first half as the Lions controlled the pace.
The Lions seemed on the verge of breaking it open early in the second half, scoring the first seven points for a 31-22 lead. But Westminster answered, scoring the next eight points and holding Liberty to just four points the rest of the quarter.