Westminster advances to 2nd Final Four in 3 years

Published 8:51 pm Monday, February 18, 2019

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Sports Editor 

MONTGOMERY – For the second time in the last three years, the Westminster at Oak Mountain girls basketball is headed to the Final Four after taking down Brantley High School 51-43 in an Elite Eight matchup on Monday, Feb. 18.

Trailing 14-5 after one quarter of play, the Knights had gotten off to a slow start for the second game in a row, but with such a veteran squad, they were able to bounce back in a big way during the middle two quarters.

Westminster outscored Brantley 32-13 during the span of the second and third quarters, but it was a particularly impressive third quarter that lifted the Knights to the victory, outscoring the Bulldogs 20-8 in the period thanks to a sharp-shooting display.

After shooting just 2-12 in the first period, Westminster did just enough to stay intact with Brantley, who shot 5-8 from the field and 2-4 from beyond the arc.

At first, it was an extremely cold start for both teams in the opening period, with Brantley’s Olivia Jones hitting a 3-pointer 46 seconds in to account for the only points in the first 4:20 of the game.

That scoring drought ended when Brantley added to its lead by posting seven more points over a two-minute stretch to take a 10-0 lead with 1:36 left in the first quarter.

Finally, with 1:19 remaining in the quarter, Macy Mixon was able to put Westminster’s first points on the board with a jumper, which was followed shortly after by a 3-pointer from Tori Deen with 42 seconds left.

The Bulldogs added two more free throws with three seconds remaining in the period to take a 14-5 advantage at the end of one, but in the final 1:19 of the quarter, the Knights had at least shown signs of life.

With that change in tone offensively, Westminster came out on a mission in to start the second quarter. The Knights put together a 10-0 run themselves to all of a sudden jump in front 15-14 4:19 into the second quarter.

In a game of back-and-forth, Brantley came right back with a 6-0 run of its own off three made free throws and a 3-pointer to take a 20-15 lead.

Westminster was able to get one more jumper from Reave Metcalf to cut the deficit to three points at the half, which was much better than the nine-point deficit the Knights entered the quarter facing.

Coming out of the locker room into the second half, it was clear that Westminster’s goal was to keep shooting the basketball and attacking the basket—and it worked.

The Knights not only hit two 3-pointers in the quarter, but shot 8-15 from the floor thanks to strong takes to the basket, which led to eight points in the paint as well as two made free throws out of three attempts.

Westminster eventually went on a 14-2 run to storm in front for a 31-21 advantage with 4:38 left in the period.

Westminster also emphasized crashing the glass to get rebounds. After being even in rebounds through the first two quarters, the Knights came out and grabbed a total of 15 boards in the third period, which was seven more than Brantley. A reason for that was their success on the defensive end boxing out, as they outrebounded the Bulldogs 12-5 on the defensive end of the floor.

That helped limit the Bulldogs to just one second-chance point in the quarter after having five in the second period.

Brantley ended up getting no closer than eight points the rest of the quarter, as the Knights went on to take a 37-28 lead into the final quarter of play after outscoring the Bulldogs 20-8 in the frame.

After falling behind by 11 early in the final period, Brantley put one last run together to cut Westminster’s lead to six points at 41-35 with 4:19 to play, but the Knights answered back with two dagger 3-pointers from Mixon and Rachel Price to extend the lead back to 12 points at 47-35 with 3:51 to play.

Brantley battled back to within seven points one more time at 49-43, but with just 31 seconds left, time wasn’t on the Bulldogs’ side, and with 23 seconds remaining, Morgan White put in a layup for the Knights to close out the 51-43 victory.

Mixon posted a double-double for Westminster with 11 points and 10 rebounds, while Price added a team-high 13 points thanks to 4-5 shooting from beyond the arc with seven rebounds. Virginia Welch and Morgan White each added 10 points with a combined 12 rebounds as well. Megan Gache led the team with six assists.

Price was also named as the tournament MVP, while White earned a spot on the all-tournament team.

With the victory, Westminster advanced to the Final Four and will take on No. 4 Phillips in the first round on Monday, Feb. 25, at 9 a.m. Phillips is coming off an 81-41 win against Falkville in the Elite Eight.