Bowling Brook Prep, a residential school on the northern edge of Carroll County, traveled to Westminster last night to take its only crack this season at a county foe.
And, after trailing by 13 in the second half, the Thoroughbreds nearly made the most of it. They rallied to within a point with 1:58 left before Westminster's experience and poise prevailed for a 71-64 win.
"We hustled. We just didn't execute when we needed to," Bowling Brook coach Paul Grier said.
Leading 65-64, the Owls scored the game's final six points - five by guard Ryan Carr.
"Our senior leadership stepped up," Westminster point guard Brandon Costley said. "[Guards] Jason [Stone] and [Brandon] Duke really motivated us in the second half. They gave us a little pep talk at halftime and got us going."
With one of their most important county games of the season set for Friday - when they can potentially break a three-way bottleneck atop the county standings against North Carroll - the Owls played a lackluster game. They committed 25 turnovers and fell behind by as many as six late in the first quarter.
Led by Costley (17 points), Stone (13) and Carr (13), however, Westminster (9-9) took control by outscoring the Thoroughbreds 17-8 to start the second half. Following Costley's three-pointer and two foul shots by Dan Simmons, the Owls took their biggest lead at 50-37.
Bowling Brook (5-12), however, clawed right back by turning aggressive play into fast-break opportunities.
Led by Rondale Guy (game-high 25 points), the Thoroughbreds outscored the Owls 14-4 to make it 54-51 with just over seven minutes to play. Bowling Brook tied it at 60 moments later when Joe Moore put back a missed three-pointer.
The Thoroughbreds then got within a point on Tyrell Coates' 15-footer with just under two minutes left, but failed to score the rest of the way.
Grier said he was pleased with the effort, which proved his team could compete with the top teams in the county.
"Coming into the game, I thought we were going to beat these guys," Grier said. "There wasn't any doubt in my mind. I'm proud of the hustle, but we were looking to win."
For Westminster, the game signaled that there's still plenty of work to be done before the start of the Class 4A playoffs.
"Those kids play hard, they're disciplined, they're well-coached and they're very athletic," Owls coach Brett Kanther said of Bowling Brook. "We're just going to have to work and continue to get better."