SANDY SPRING -- It was a forward's game for most of last night when Westminster traveled to Sherwood in a Class 4A West region semifinal.
That was until Sherwood senior guard Tee-kee Williams found herself at the free-throw line with three seconds left and the score tied.
Williams hit her first free throw and when her second rimmed out and into the hands of teammate Kiesha Brooks, Sherwood escaped with a 53-52 victory to knock Westminster out of the region playoffs for a second consecutive season.
Westminster sophomore forward Jill Ibex (18 points) hit a short jumper with 1:04 left to tie the score at 52. The Owls had come back from a 30-21 halftime deficit to lead by as many as six in the fourth quarter.
The Owls (19-5) got the ball back and called a timeout with 31 seconds left and a fresh 30-second clock, but opted to run a play instead of using up the majority of the clock. Ibex's open shot from 12 feet missed. Teammate Cassandra Conklin grabbed the rebound and put up another shot before Sherwood controlled the rebound with 23 seconds left.
"We talked about scoring first," said Westminster coach Bernie Koontz. "We set up a play and got the shot we wanted. We set the screens and Jill caught the ball, but the shot just didn't fall.
"I can't say enough about my kids -- they did a super job. They came back and fought, worked hard to get back in the game, but couldn't get the last shot to fall."
On the Warriors' last possession, Williams kept the ball up top along the right side before driving to the middle with five seconds left.
Both Koontz and Sherwood coach Warren Crutchfield were a bit surprised she got the foul.
"The last 25 seconds we were just trying to spread it out, have Tee-kee drive and have Meredith [Pine] and Kiesha [Brooks] there for the rebound," said Crutchfield. "I was surprised [to get the call]."
The talk going into the game was centered around the return of Pine, a junior forward who was out with an ankle injury for an early-season game won by Westminster, 65-37. Last season, she had 32 in the Warriors' 71-51 playoff win over Westminster.
When Westminster forward Beth Lister got into early foul trouble, Brooks was the center of attention with 14 of her game-high 25 points coming in the second quarter to give the Warriors the nine-point lead at the half.
The Owls regrouped in the third behind Ibex and senior forward Lauren Kadlubowski (16 points), going on a 12-0 run to take a 40-36 lead.
"The first half we were taken out of our game some," Koontz said. "We knew we had to rebound better, play a little tougher defense and do some better things offensively and we did that."
The Owls had a 50-44 lead when Conklin hit a runner with 4:04 left in the game. A three-point bank from Rebecca Steiner -- her only points of the game -- gave Sherwood the lead back at 52-50 with 1:25 left.
"There will be a lot of good memories from this team," Koontz said. "We won 19 ball games and have a lot to be proud of."