Westminster doesn't miss beat, 67-40

JV players step right up as Owls put away Liberty

Girls basketball

High Schools

January 25, 2003|By Rich Scherr | Rich Scherr,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Amid the backdrop of TV cameras, dozens of curious onlookers and a section of hardcore fans eager to stand and applaud at every opportunity, the No. 19 Westminster girls basketball team took the court last night for the first time since nine of its 12 players were ruled ineligible for the season, and delivered a resounding message to the rest of Carroll County.

We're not done yet.

Pairing their three returning players with five JV call-ups, the Owls at times looked as dominating as ever, racing to a commanding lead on their way to a 67-40 victory over host Liberty.

"We're really looking toward the future," said forward Emily Bollinger, the reigning county Player of the Year. "Tonight was big for us."

Returners Bollinger (14 points), Carmen Fajardo (14) and Natasha Morrison (13) played the roles of veteran leaders for the Owls (10-4 overall, 5-0 county), while such newcomers as Brianne Sims (16 points) and Brittany Baer made contributions that few but their coach might have expected.

"We have a base offense and defense that we run all through the program," coach Dick Ebersole said. "A year ago, I'm not so sure we could've done this. But these kids came up and I said, `Do you know this? Do you know this?' There were a lot of things, and about 80 percent of them weren't new to them."

That was apparent early, as the Owls built a 24-5 lead after the first 9:30, with Fajardo scoring 11 points, hitting three three-pointers. The defense, meanwhile, held perimeter-shooting Liberty (2-10, 1-5) to 2-for-25 accuracy from the field to start the game and 13 percent for the half.

Westminster led 32-13 at the break, drawing a standing ovation from parents and fans, and never was seriously threatened the rest of the way.

It was a remarkable swing of emotions from just three days before, when nine members of the team, including several prominent players, lost their eligibility for the season in the wake of allegations that they had attended an off-campus party at which alcohol was served on Dec. 20.

Left with few options, Ebersole immediately made plans to forfeit three games while the team was reshaped and regrouped. At the urging of his three remaining players, however, the coach and school administrators decided to forfeit just once, returning to the court as soon as possible.

"They said to me Wednesday morning: `We need to get back to playing and get this behind us,' " Ebersole said. "Getting uniforms back in and holding a parent meeting and all - I was just looking at all those logistical things that needed to be done. They said, `We'll help you. We can pull this off.' And we did."

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