Westminster Christian boys basketball coach Bruce Firchau wished freshman Elliott Brandon's near-half court heave to conclude matters in the Warriors' 84-34 Class 1A Harvest Christian regional semifinal had clanked off the glass and actually not gone in.
But how the 50-point win began that advanced the top-seeded Warriors to Friday night's regional final against No. 2 Harvest Christian was very much to Firchau's delight.
The Warriors (16-12) bolted out of the gate with a 26-4 first quarter thanks to a suffocating defense that helped Westminster score the game's first 12 points. Nine of Robert Kleczynski's game-high 17 points came in those first 8 minutes, when his team totaled 8 steals for 12 out of a possible 16 points. An all-out press defense simply made it easy on the offensive end as the Warriors shot 10 of 16 for the quarter, pacing them to 53.7 percent clip overall.
"We got them early, set the tempo and the tone for the game and the rest of the team did a nice job," said Firchau, who praised Kleczynski for being a major catalyst. "What a difference-maker. He gives us so much quickness, makes us better defensively as well as offensively."
Westminster will battle its Randall Road neighbor Harvest Christian, the No. 2 seed, in Friday's 7 p.m. championship game. Harvest was victorious 75-44 over third-seeded Islamic Foundation. Harvest will see a Warriors' defense that totaled all of Universal's (5-13) 22 turnovers in the steals department. The Warriors scored 47 points off that stat alone, including 38 points in the paint, and made 21 of its 29 free throws. Each player for Westminster registered at least 3 points.
"They put it on us," Stars coach Tim Ferguson said. "I stressed to them they're going to put the pressure on us and I gave them some ideas of how to get out of it and we didn't execute it."
"All season long we've been working on fast-breaking. Get up, get the ball and go," said Kleczynski, who will now focus on Harvest, a team the Warriors have beaten twice this season. "(It's just) a matter of playing hard and executing our offense, shutting them down on defense. As coach always stresses, defense always starts our offense and that's our most important component. If we can keep that up I think we'll do well."
Universal was led by Mahmoud Radwan, who scored 9 points. Brian McDonaugh scored 12 off the bench for the Warriors.