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Westminster Christian's Christina Cusumano drives around four Elgin defenders Tuesday. | Jon Cunningham~For Sun-Times Media
It’s one championship down and another still to accomplish this week for the Westminster Christian girls basketball team.
The Warriors closed out a 4-0 run through the first Elgin City Classic Tuesday by seizing control from the start against Elgin for a 62-30 victory and a tournament title. Now it’s on to a Friday night showdown for the Northeast Athletic Conference title against Christian Liberty and possibly the first ever school conference girls sports title.
“We actually were calling this championship week,” Westminster coach Ken Flickinger said. “It’s kind of like on ESPN. It’s just a little early for us. We want to make sure we can say this later on in the [post]season.”
The Warriors (14-4) had exploded out of the gates last week in three tourney wins, and Flickinger stressed more of the same.
“As good as we were last week, there was just kind of a worry that there was going to be a letdown, but they came out in the first quarter and played good basketball,” Flickinger said. “So that kind of set the tone for us.”
Freshman Maddie Versluys took over at the outset near the basket, scoring 13 of her game-high 19 points while hauling down three rebounds and making a steal as the Warriors jetted out to a 22-4 lead after a quarter and never led by less than 11 again. They dominated in the paint and turned it into a quick blowout.
“She works really well without the ball,” Flickinger said of Versluys. “She works really hard. When she gets the ball she pretty much thinks that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line and goes right to the rim.”
A 14-of-24 first-half shooting from the field (58 percent) reflected how close Westminster shot to the basket as the paint became Warriors property.
“We ran a lot of fast breaks, so that’s what really pushed the tempo,” said Westminster guard McKaila Hays, who scored 10 points and made three steals.
The Maroons played without point guard Maggie Powers due to illness, and when post player Tamara Milosevic got into quick foul trouble, Elgin was hard-pressed to put together much offense against the Warriors pressure. Elgin had 21 first-half turnovers in falling behind 35-19 by halftime.
“We had kids playing out of position,” Elgin coach Nick Bumbales said, referring to the loss of Powers. “But that’s no excuse. We’ve still got to take care of the ball. And we didn’t do a very good job of that.
“They’re a very good team. They played well and they beat our butts.”
Westminster had a few anxious moments late in the second quarter as Elgin (6-14) cut the 22-4 deficit to 28-17, but then Hays exploded with three straight buckets, two off fast break layups, and the Warriors never looked back.
Claire Speiwek had eight points for Westmister, while Elgin got seven from Melanie Berg and six from Anna Eckholm, Abby Pierre-Louis, and Kristin Tayag.
“I’d like to thank the school’s athletic directors for making this possible and I think it’s something that’s going to go on for a long time,” said Bumbales, whose came up with the idea for the round robin tournament of all-Elgin schools and sold it. The tourney still has two games to go Friday night at Elgin.
Earlier, Larkin got 17 points from Quixmia Washington and also supported her with nine points from Amber McGhee and eight from Shawndrea Hill in a 47-16 victory over Elgin Academy (8-10). The victory ended a 10-game losing streak for the Royals (2-17).
“Q [Washington] works hard and Shawndrea and Sky Evans (7 points) really worked hard together and gave her help tonight,” Larkin coach Ruben Flores said. “It’s good to get the monkey off our backs and now we have to go on and have a tough week or two coming up.”
Larkin outscored the Hilltoppers 15-2 in the second quarter and turned it quickly into a blowout.