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Westminster Christian girls basketball coach Ken Flickinger wasn't the happiest guy in town with the way his team played defense in the first half Tuesday night.
So the Warriors did something about it, and their coach was all smiles by game's end.
Westminster held Ottawa Marquette Academy to just 12 points in the final 16 minutes and turned a 1-point halftime advantage into a 20-point win, beating the Class 2A Crusaders 54-34 in nonconference action in Elgin.
The win was the Warriors' 10th straight and ran their season record to 21-4. They can tie the school record for wins in a season set by last year's sectional finalist with a win at Keith Country Day in the regular-season finale Friday. Westminster is the No. 1 seed in next week's Class 1A Harvest Christian regional.
Freshman Maddie Versluys played through first-half foul trouble to score a game-high 20 points and junior McKaila Hays added 12 points, 5 assists and 4 steals. But it was the inspired play of junior Kinsley Donahue off the bench that helped the Warriors keep the game close in the first half when Versluys had to go to the bench.
"I haven't been driving to the basket a lot but this game my coaches and teammates encouraged me to step out and drive more," said Donahue, who finished with 10 points. "I have a lack of confidence sometimes and they really helped me with that. I was able to get some fouls and that gets the game moving faster and helps build momentum for everyone."
And while Flickinger was pleased to see Donahue step up and take a more active offensive role, his real pleasure Tuesday came from seeing his team respond defensively in the second half.
"Our defense was a little sloppy in the first half," said Flickinger, whose team held three opponents to a total of 57 points in last weekend's Northeastern Athletic Conference tournament. "We've worked really hard the second half of the season coming out of the locker room strong, and defensively we got better in the second half tonight."
Leading 23-22 at halftime, the Warriors went on an 8-1 run to open the third quarter and took a 31-23 lead on 2 free throws from Hays with 5:22 left in the period.
Marquette hung close at 34-28 after a 3-pointer from Marissa Gama with 3:38 to go in the third, but the Warriors came back with the next 6 points to take a 40-28 lead on 2 more free throws from Hays with 1:17 to go. Marquette (15-7) didn't get closer than 10 the rest of the way.
Westminster made 7 of 10 from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter, including 3 of 4 from Donahue.
"She struggled with her free throws in practice (Monday) when we were shooting Free Throws for Heroes, but she made them tonight," said Flickinger of Donahue, who was 6-for-10 from the line for the game. "She's a tough matchup for teams. We just need her to push the pace because she's tough to guard."
Junior Claire Speweik had 10 rebounds and junior Courtney Gnan pulled down 6 for the Warriors, who outrebounded Marquette 41-28. The Crusaders shot just 10 of 35 on the night and Westminster's defense helped force 21 Marquette turnovers.
"That was a good test for us," said Flickinger of Marquette. "We needed to play a good quality team like that."
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