Owls stave off Blair rally, 63-51

January 12, 1995|By Bill Free | Bill Free,Sun Staff Writer

SILVER SPRING -- It was a battle of unbeatens, one of the Baltimore area's best against one of the Washington area's best.

It was the experience and talent of Westminster, ranked 13th in the Baltimore metro area, against the quickness and size of Montgomery Blair, ranked 13th in the Washington metro poll.

The result was a 63-51 victory for Westminster (10-0) over Blair (8-1) in a game that looked to be almost over in the final minutes of the third quarter when the Owls ran off to a 44-25 lead with 1:47 left.

The combination of Beth Lister's shooting (23 points), Cassandra Conklin's all-around play (16 points, five assists and four steals) and the rebounding of Jill Ibex (10 rebounds to go with eight points) appeared to be too much for Blair to overcome.

But suddenly the Blazers started coming back behind an excellent full-court press and the play of freshman point guard Shelly Browne.

Browne ran the Blair offense perfectly, giving the ball up when she had no openings to drive into and taking the ball to the basket when the opportunity presented itself.

Browne scored all eight of her points in a fourth quarter that featured the continuation of a Blair run that went to 20-4 and reduced the Westminster lead to 48-45 with 4:29 left.

Browne hit four straight free throws to account for the final four points of the 20-4 surge, and the Owls seemed to be in serious trouble.

However, Conklin came through with several big plays down the stretch and Lister scored a key basket with 52 seconds remaining to help the Owls stave off the rallying Blazers and pull farther ahead during the final minutes.

"This was a really important win for our team," said Westminster coach Bernie Koontz. "To go on the road and win this game in spite of a lot of obstacles we were facing is a major tribute to our players."

Koontz was talking about the two times the clock didn't start in the final minutes when the Blazers were rallying, the one time the possession arrow somehow got turned around in favor of Blair when it should have been in Westminster's direction, and the officiating.

"People who are working the clock get caught up in a game and forget to start it sometimes and the same thing happens to the possession arrow," said Koontz. "I'm sure they didn't do it intentionally."

Over the final four minutes, Conklin scored five points, had two rebounds and two assists. She got the ball to Lister for the layup with 52 seconds left that gave Westminster a 57-51 lead, after she had driven the lane to score a basket that ended the 20-4 Blair run.

"I was getting frustrated the way they were hitting us and fouls weren't being called," said Conklin. "I just made up my mind we had to win the game, and I tried to do the same things I usually do."

Blair coach Bill Lindsey said: "We just didn't know how to handle their zone defense early in the game, forcing too many shots and falling too far behind. But that showed our inexperience against their experience."

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