Westminster at Oak Mountain girls hoping to “Finish” this season

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Sports Editor

Looking to build off three consecutive Elite Eight appearances and two Final Four appearances in the last three years, the Westminster at Oak Mountain girls basketball team will return the majority of its roster for the 2019-20 season hoping to take this team one step further into the championship game.

Led by head coach Dana Gache, the Knights have been a consistent contender the last several years with several players returning each year, and the upcoming season will be no different.

“We’re super excited about the season,” Gache said. “We’ve left some things undone the last few years. This year, our goal is to go all the way. We have such a strong senior class returning and a really strong ninth grade class that can help us achieve what we are setting out to do.”

Three of those returning players are Morgan White, Virginia Welch and Megan Gache, all of whom played major roles on last year’s team and have played valuable minutes since their freshman year.

“We’ve all talked about how crazy it is that we’re seniors. We’ve been known as tater tots since we got here, now we’re the old ones,” Megan Gache said. “I don’t know, it’s good in a way because we’re more confident. We know everything.”

And that confidence in one another is something that has this team not only comfortable, but also hungry to go out on top.

“We’ve played together since elementary school so to be seniors, we’re like sisters and want to give it all we have one last time,” Welch said.

All three bring back valuable experience as White returns as the team’s leading scorer after averaging 10.19 points per game, while Gache was the team’s leader in assists with 70 last year and Welch was the team’s leader in rebounds with 147, including 85 offensive rebounds.

Welch also averaged 7.25 points per game, while Gache averaged 4.33 points per game and added 122 rebounds.

“Our confidence level is high,” White said. “Going to the Final Four twice, we know it’s possible. We’ve been there and know what to do and what not to do.”

The Knights, however, do lose several stars, including Rachel Price, Tori Deen and Macy Mixon, who were three leaders last year. Price and Deen combined for 35 3-pointers, while Mixon posted 129 rebounds, 47 steals and 31 assists.

With their departure, the Knights are going to be a more up-tempo team this season that wants to push the floor.

Having graduated so many good 3-point shooters, we’ll try to play a lot faster this year so we can get baskets in transition,” Dana Gache said. “We’ve been good at that as well, but there will be more of an emphasis on it this year.”

It’s something that will be different for the close squad, but something they have been working on.

“This will be a transition year for all of us,” Dana Gache said. “I started coaching them in second grade, so it’s a special group. We changed up a little of what we did preseason this year because of our change in styl. Players have already seen a difference in their conditioning.”

Those three senior stars have taken notice of the changes.

“It’s been a natural change offensively,” Megan Gache said. “We were slow last year. This year, we’ve been practicing transition and pushing the ball.”

Both White and Welch said the work leading into the season has helped them stay in shape and that they’re faster and more conditioned going into this season.

All three players also compete in at least two sports, which helps with conditioning as well.

In addition to those veteran players, Westminster will also have several young players in eighth, ninth and 10th grade ready to contribute after valuable experience at young ages with this team.

No matter the grade level, this team has bonded together and has one goal in mind this season—finishing.

“Believe and finish,” Dana Gache said. “Believe we can get there and finish it. We’ve always had that belief, and now we need to finish it. This is going to be our year.”

Westminster will start the new season on Thursday, Nov. 7, with a road game against Indian Springs.