The quest for Redbird Arena has officially begun for the Westminster Christian girls basketball team and after a fast-paced, 60-21 regional semifinal win over No. 4 seed Harvest Christian to begin postseason play Tuesday night, it looks as if the Warriors want to be the quickest of any team in Class 1A to make it downstate.
Claire Speweik, who had a game-high 15 points to go with 4 steals, scored 8 first-quarter points that helped spark a frantic pace for the Warriors (23-4), who outscored the Lions (7-20) 23-3 and forced 13 turnovers. in the first 8 minutes.
Freshman Maddie Versluys (10 rebounds) added 6 of her 12 points during that span as well as top-seeded Westminster scored the game's first 12 points and raged havoc with its full-court press.
No. 2-seed Christian Liberty, which defeated No. 3 Elgin Academy 47-17 in Tuesday's second game will have the unenviable task of trying to slow down the Warriors, who advanced to a sectional final last year, Thursday at 7:30 p.m. for the Harvest Christian regional championship at Mitchell Swaback Athletic Center in Elgin. The winner will advance to next week's sectional at Westminster. The Warriors own wins of 49-32 and 46-25 over Christian Liberty this season.
"I really like when we play fast," said Speweik, whose team put up 40 shots in the first half (26 for 69 total). "I think fast is fun. I just think we look really good but when we're slower, I don't think it's boring but it's more fun when we play fast.
"Our goal was to come out fast and strong, and I think we definitely did that."
Westminster continued the trend in the second quarter taking a 32-4 lead at halftime, winning the quarter 9-1 by forcing 8 turnovers. Harvest coughed it up 33 times in total and the Warriors totaled 30 steals. At least 5 Warriors had 3 or more steals, including Liz Meschewski, who scored 6 points but had more steals with 8. Kinsley Donahue came off the bench for 5 points and 6 steals and McKaila Hays chipped in 5 points, 6 rebounds and 4 steals.
"A few years ago we played Hinckley-Big Rock when they won state and we were one of their victims on their way there," Westminster coach Ken Flickinger said. "That was one of the things that reminded me of that team. We saw them play and if you made a mistake, it was like you were down 10 after two turnovers. And so we've really tried to model that and turn teams over."
Harvest clearly did as the Warriors grabbed 3 steals in a 30-second span and Westminster was up 8-0 with 5:39 left in the first quarter. But after falling behind by 20 and making 1 shot in the first half, the second was much better for the Lions as Westminster outscored them 28-17.
Sophomore Kylee Knox scored 13 points, 10 coming in the last 2 quarters. She nailed three 3-pointers. Senior Sarah Kott added 10 rebounds for Harvest.
"I just think that says a lot about our girls, just that they have those attitudes that they're going to keep playing, no matter what the score is," said Harvest coach Kelly Friestad, whose team made 9 of 42 from the field and was outrebounded 32-29. "I think that says a lot of them and we're proud of them for that."
Christian Liberty 47, Elgin Academy 17: Lizzie Clements led Elgin Academy with 8 points in the second semifinal.