Westminster gets past Montgomery Blair, 48-45

March 01, 1994|By Glenn P. Graham | Glenn P. Graham,Sun Staff Writer

All season long, senior point guard Lauren Zuskin quietly has gone about her business effectively running the Westminster Owls' offense. Last night, it was her turn to shine.

Trailing 45-44, Zuskin sank a pair of free throws with 33 seconds left to lead the Owls to a 48-45 win over Montgomery Blair in the opening round of the Class 4A West region playoffs in Westminster. The fourth-seeded Owls (15-6) next will play top-seeded Sherwood tomorrow.

After Montgomery Blair's Beverly Laryea was called for a foul, which sent Zuskin to the line for a one-and-one, a timeout was called.

Zuskin then hit nothing but net on her first shot to tie the score at 44. Before she got the ball back for her second shot, teammate Jill Ibex's Band-Aid fell to the floor and the referee asked Zuskin to hand it to Westminster coach Bernie Koontz. She did and then rattled home her second free throw to give the Owls a lead they never would relinquish.

"I was really nervous and then I was just thinking, 'Take a deep breath and put it in,' " she said.

"And then Jill's Band-Aid fell off and the ref wouldn't pick it up so he told me to give it to Coach Koontz. I just refocused, took another deep breath and did it again."

The Westminster defense did the rest. Zuskin tied up Laryea with 14 seconds left, but Montgomery Blair maintained possession. Lauren Kadlubowski put pressure on Laryea and forced a double dribble with 10 seconds left. Ibex added a pair of free throws with two seconds left.

There were different Westminster players who stepped up at different times to lead the Owls.

Senior forward Julie Backof finished with 13 -- including 11 points in a pivotal second quarter when Montgomery Blair opened up a 16-11 lead with five minutes left in the half. Ibex came off the bench to score 10 and did a good job of shutting down Montgomery Blair top scorer Peppi Browne in the fourth quarter. Browne, who had 19 after three quarters, wasn't heard from in the fourth.

"Julie played well inside tonight. She's another player who quietly gets her nine or 10 rebounds a game and gets the points with it," Koontz said.

"Jill played an excellent game off the bench. She got some boards, scored some big points and did a great job on defense."

Cassandra Conklin hit for 10 and Kadlubowski (four points) played solid defense throughout. And then there was Zuskin, who handled the Montgomery press throughout the night and finished with five points.

"That's the way it's been all season long," said Westminster coach Bernie Koontz.

"This group enjoys playing together, works well together and all have a common goal."

The score was tied at 34 going into the last quarter. After Ibex hit a jumper from the free-throw line to give the Owls a 36-34 lead, Montgomery Blair scored the next five points to take a 39-36 lead.

The Owls made their run, trailing 43-40 with 2:25 left. Kadlubowski put back a rebound to make it 43-42. Ibex did the same with 1:22 left to give the Owls a 44-43 lead and then Montgomery Blair regained the lead when Laryea (11 points) drove to the basket for two with 1:03 left.

That set the stage for Luskin.

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