Providence St. Mel gave the Westminster Christian girls basketball team fits Monday night.
But not for long.
Trailing 7-4 with 2:17 to play in the first quarter, Westminster went on a 20-0 run and eventually rolled to a 58-25 win over St. Mel in the first semifinal of the Class 1A Westminster Christian sectional.
The Warriors (25-4), who lost in the sectional finals last year, will take on the winner of tonight's game between Morgan Park Academy and North Shore Country Day on Thursday at 7:30 p.m., with the winner advancing to the DeKalb supersectional next Monday.
"It wasn't pretty," said Westminster coach Ken Flickinger of Monday's win. "Games like this you have to learn to adjust. They were calling the game tight at the start and we had to adjust to that. There really wasn't a flow."
The Warriors used their usual aggressive approach on defense to turn the game around. Their ball-pressuring trapping game helped create 37 St. Mel turnovers on the night, and gave Westminster some easy layups as a result.
But early on, the Knights (14-9) were able to bottle up the lane and even though St. Mel struggled offensively, the Knights were able to slow the Warriors down in the first quarter.
But then came the second quarter and Westminster made the adjustments it needed to to put the game away. The Warriors held St, Mel without a field goal in the second and fourth quarters and to 5-for-26 shooting for the night. Westminster, which outrebounded the Knights 40-26, led 25-10 by halftime and 48-21 at the end of the third quarter.
"We were a little flustered at the start," said Warriors' junior Claire Speweik, who had 17 points. "Once we got over it we were good."
Speweik agreed being pushed a little wasn't a bad thing.
"It helped us and gave us a boost," she said.
Speweik's shooting also gave the Warriors a boost. Not normally an outside shooter, Speweik hit back-to-back 3-pointers in the third quarter that helped the Warriors extend their lead.
"I like shooting 3s," she said. "I haven't shot a lot of 3s this year because I usually don't play in the perimeter. I just got open tonight."
Freshman Maddie Versluys also had 17 points for the Warriors to go along with 13 rebounds and 5 steals, but Flickinger was most pleased with his reserves.
"I can't say enough about our bench play tonight," he said. "Numerous players came off the bench and did a nice job tonight. They can all play defense and they can all score when they're confident. I was real pleased with our defense tonight. It certainly helped us. The girls have really bought into the idea of coming out and playing good defense."
And now it's on to a sectional final for the second straight year.
"We just have to have confidence in ourselves and play like we know how to play," said Speweik of Thursday's game.
Flickinger knows what he'll preach to his team between now and Thursday.
"The girls understand they have to play well and that on any given night anybody can beat anybody if you're not paying attention," he said.
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