There would be no see-saw battle, no heart-stopping comeback, and no nail-biting free throws for Westminster.
Taking a 180-degree turn from their previous game against Linganore, the No. 15-ranked Owls scored 50 points in the second half and sailed to a comfortable 78-55 victory over the visiting Lancers in Westminster last night.
When the two Central Maryland Conference rivals met Jan. 14, Westminster needed two free throws from senior point guard Ryan Salkeld to edge the Frederick County school, 57-55.
But with senior forward Nick Hohenwarter and junior shooting guard Jon-David Byers pumping in a game-high 25 points each, the Owls coasted to improve their record in the conference to 9-1 and overall mark to 15-2.
"When we played up there, we were very passive," said Byers, who also chipped in six assists and three steals. "We weren't getting up on people. In the third quarter tonight, we played better defense, and the defense leads to offense."
That certainly was the case in the third quarter when junior guard Matt Trammell (13 points) gave Linganore a 36-32 lead with 3: 53 left.
After Westminster senior power forward Adrian Lynch grabbed an offensive rebound and nailed a jumper to cut the lead to two, the Owls snatched four consecutive steals that led to eight unanswered points in a span of 1: 22.
By the time Hohenwarter hit a mid-range jumper with 1: 31 left, Westminster had built a 44-38 lead.
Lynch, who punctuated the run with a steal and a thunderous one-handed dunk, said the team remembered coach Dave Byers' advice in the locker room at halftime.
"Coach pulled us together and said to just play our defense, and our offense would come along," said Lynch, who finished with 11 points and five steals.
In the second quarter, the Lancers (11-5, 6-4) punished the Owls with their senior forward combination of Mike Thompson and John Krumpotich.
Thompson scored eight points and grabbed three rebounds, and Krumpotich contributed eight points and six rebounds as Linganore enjoyed a five-point lead with about two minutes left in the half.
But Westminster closed the half with a 7-0 run and used the third-quarter outburst to force the Lancers to adopt a hack-a-player mentality with 3: 06 left in the fourth quarter.
Linganore coach Arnie McGaha, whose squad followed a shocking four-point upset of state Class 3A champion Thomas Johnson Friday with an emotional two-point loss to cross-county rival Urbana Saturday, praised his team's effort.
"That's playoff competition in three out of five nights," he said. "I don't know a lot of teams that get that kind of schedule in their own conference. Westminster will do some things in the playoffs."
Hammond 66, No. 18 Wilde Lake 64: In a game in which fouls played a crucial role, the host Golden Bears came from 16 points down to upset the Howard County league-leading Wildecats.
The victory tighten an already close Howard County league race. Hammond (9-8 overall, 8-5 league) moved within two games of Wilde Lake (13-4, 10-3) with five to play.
Centennial is now tied for first place with the Wildecats.