A pair of streaks were extended last night as Westminster opened a 10-point first-quarter lead and went on to defeat visiting Liberty, 56-42. It was the fourth straight victory for Westminster and Liberty's sixth straight loss.
Each came into the game off an emotional overtime effort last Friday, as Westminster (10-5) had edged South Carroll, 64-63, and Liberty had fallen at North Carroll, 55-54.
This one got away little more than halfway through the first quarter when Westminster's Jon-David Byers and Nick Hohenwater hit back-to-back three-pointers to open a 12-2 lead on the Lions, who missed their first seven shots from the field.
By this time, Marc Falcone, Liberty's 6-foot-7 junior, was on the bench with no points and two fouls. He came in averaging 17.7 points, and had struck for more than 20 in each of his last three outings.
Billy Bowman, one of only two Westminster seniors with appreciable playing time, set the tone early for one of his best games of the season.
The tenacious 6-1 guard made two free throws, fed Ryan Sackeld for the first of his three baskets, then came back with a shot from underneath.
The three-pointers followed, and Liberty (3-10), on the road for the third successive time, never recovered enough to make a run. The Lions are also a young team, as four juniors join the squad's lone senior, Mike Reuwer, in the starting lineup.
Falcone made a slight dent in the third quarter when he got his first basket of the night off a steal, then capped a move inside with a free throw to complete a three-point play. It brought the Lions within 34-24, but those were his only baskets of the game and he ended with seven points.
"Westminster executed well early, and the fouls on Falcone slowed us down," Liberty coach Scott Kohr said. "Then, they not only played well in transition, but showed us some of the best defense we've seen."
It seems the Liberty players take turns having good games, but as Kohr explained, "We're still searching."
Westminster coach Dave Byers said the two early fouls on Falcone were not by design, because his team played the Lions straight up. Referring to Hohenwater, he continued, "Nick did a nice job defensively."
Last year, the Owls went to the regional final with seven seniors, including the five starters, and anything the young reserves did was a bonus.
As a result, this year was a case of starting over, with two sophomores and a lot of juniors to go with the seniors. To their credit, Bowman and Andy Leister have, according to Byers, "stepped up and taken responsibility."
Bowman was the one this time, as he asserted himself, finishing with 16 points, his second-best scoring effort of the season.
Pub Date: 1/27/99