It was a night of milestones and records Tuesday for the Westminster Christian girls basketball team.
And, the Warriors notched an impressive come-from-behind win to boot.
Senior McKaila Hays became just the third Westminster girl in program history to reach 1,000 career points, sophomore Maddie Verluys scored a school-record 32 points and Westminster registered its 20th win of the season in defeating St. Francis 68-60 in a nonconference game in Elgin.
Trailing 33-24 at halftime and then 43-24 after St. Francis senior Caroline Pins hit a 3-pointer with 6:10 left in the third quarter, Westminster (20-3) looked to be on the verge of its second straight loss.
But then the Warriors picked up their defense while Hays and Verluys took care of the offense and over the final 6:10 of the quarter they outscored St. Francis 20-2 to trail just 45-44 entering the fourth quarter. They took the lead for good on a three-point play by senior Liz Meschewski with 2:41 left in the game and then, leading 60-58 with 1:52 to play, closed it out with an 8-2 run that included senior Kinsley Donahue and Versluys combining to go 6-for-6 from the free-throw line.
Hays joined the 1,000-point club with 4:11 left in the third when she faked her defender, drove the baseline and pulled up for a 12-footer. She came into the game with 990 career points and scored 16 on the night to take over second place on the school's all-time scoring list. Stacy Mahlman (2003) is the program's all-time leader with 1,219 career points and 2007 grad Erica Schreiber had 1,002.
Hays, also the program's all-time assist leader, added six more to that total as well.
"I'm very relieved," said Hays of reaching 1,000 points. "I set this goal freshman year and to achieve it is very rewarding. I couldn't have done it without my teammates and the glory goes to God. Without Him I wouldn't have these talents."
Versluys' record night helped put the Warriors over the top in a game in which they played out of character for the first 18 minutes, committing 17 turnovers and shooting just 10-for-33. She scored 21 of her points in the second half and broke the previous school record of 30 held by Allison Robson when she made 2 free throws with 28 seconds to play.
"It was all my teammates," Versluys said. "I couldn't have had any of those shots without their passes. We moved the ball around well in the second half and once we got the momentum we started scoring."
That momentum came via defense. The Warriors turned it up a notch in the second half, helping St. Francis (9-13) commit 16 turnovers and shoot just 10 of 30.
"Our defense got much much better in the second half," said Westminster coach Ken Flickinger. "We played almost too fast in the first half. We just had to take it one possession at a time. We did an outstanding job in the second half and I'm very proud of them."
Flickinger also lauded the milestone achieved by Hays, who will attend Cornerstone University next year.
"She's as pure a shooter as I've ever had here," he said. "McKaila really wants the ball when it matters. She's a very unselfish player and we always have to tell her to shoot more."
For all the scoring, Hays knew Tuesday's win was more about defense than anything.
"Going into halftime coach reiterated defense," she said. "Our focus in the second half was to play good smart defense and let our offense come from that."
Donahue added 10 points for the Warriors while Verluys had 9 rebounds.
Sophomore Reagan Sproat led St. Francis with 16 points and 12 rebounds. Sophomore Sloane Baumgartner added 12 points and junior Regan Kasprak had 10,
"We haven't had a lot of games where we had to protect a lead," said Spartans' coach Mike Phillips. "That's a really good team and their pressure got to us, We had a good effort and lost to a good team. Unfortunately, we couldn't hold the lead."
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