Westminster’s season ends in Elite Eight

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Sports Editor

MONTGOMERY – The Westminster at Oak Mountain girls’ basketball team will miss out on making it to two consecutive Final Four’s after falling to Loachapoka in the Elite Eight on Wednesday, Feb. 21, at Alabama State’s Dunn-Oliver Acadome.

Last year, the Knights were able to beat Loachapoka in the Elite Eight by a final of 51-40, but in 2018 that same success wasn’t replicated as the Indians were able to get revenge with a 54-38 win to clinch a spot in the Final Four.

The redemption factor seemed to influence the start of the game as Loachapoka came out stout on both ends of the floor, but specifically defensively.

They limited the Knights to just four points in the opening period of the game, while scoring 10 points of their own to take a 10-4 lead at the end of the first quarter.

It was a quarter that made the difference in the game as Westminster never could make up any ground throughout the game due to strong play from the Indians’ defense.

Loachapoka continued its strong play into the second quarter starting the period on a 12-6 run to take a 22-10 lead with 2:40 remaining until halftime.

The Knights outscored the Indians 4-2 over the final 2:40 of the quarter, but still trailed by 10 points at the half.

Westminster came into the game as a team that relies on steals and fast-break opportunities, but in the first half they were outscored 12-2 off turnovers as Loachapoka had 10 steals to Westminster’s two.

That along with the Knights picking up 10 fouls to the Indians’ five fouls was the difference in the half

Loachapoka’s Kaitlin Hill also made Westminster pay with her quick speed and attacking of the basket as she had 12 of Loachapoka’s 24 points in first half.

Both of those were stats that continued into the second half as the Indians got to the free throw line six more times after drawing eight more fouls in the quarter, while Westminster got to the line just twice after drawing only two fouls in the quarter.

Westminster also turned the ball over five more times in the quarter to lead to more easy chances for Loachapoka.

Morgan White, however, was able to help Westminster gain some confidence late in the quarter.

She hit a crazy turnaround basket after crossing up two defenders and then helped force a trap and a five-second violation at mid court during Loachapoka’s ensuing possession.

Westminster took advantage of that and scored another basket on an offensive board that led to the Knights ending the quarter on a 4-0 run to cut the Indians’ lead to 30-22 heading to the final period.

The break between the third and fourth quarter seemed to wake Loachapoka back up.

The Indians started the final quarter on a 7-0 run to take a 37-22 lead with 5:40 remaining in the game.

Having scored just 22 points through three quarters, that   15-point lead seemed like the mountain of all mountains to climb for Westminster with just under five minutes left to play.

The Knights hit a few late baskets and played more aggressively over the final few minutes, but couldn’t make up the deficit as they fell by the final of 54-38.

Loachapoka won several important categories in the game, including 14-4 on steals, 26-19 on turnovers and 29-12 on fouls.

The Indians were also 23-35 at free throw line, while Westminster got to the line just 14 times and made nine of those attempts.

Westminster was led by White with 20 points, while Anna Richburg added eight points and 11 rebounds in her final game for the Knights.

Hill led the Indians with 36 points as she was an unstoppable force for Loachapoka.

Aside from Richburg, Westminster will return all of its players next year and should be a contender to get back to the Elite Eight to redeem this year’s loss.

Photos available at Shelbycountyphotos.com