FULTON, Mo. – Resilience. The capacity to recover quickly from difficulties.
The Westminster College women's basketball team demonstrated its resilience and toughness Saturday afternoon against St. Louis Intercollegiate Conference foe Eureka, battling back from a nine-point second half deficit to defeat the Red Devils, 88-76, in Historic Gym.
"I was incredibly proud of our resilience today," Westminster coach Talisha Washington said. "The girls battled their way through for the win."
Westminster appeared to be cruising early in the contest and Eureka didn't demonstrate much fight as the Blue Jays jumped out to an 18-6 lead with just under four minutes remaining in the first quarter. That lead, however, lulled the Blue Jays into a false sense of security. A trifecta of turnovers by Westminster shifted the momentum in favor of Eureka (11-8, 7-5), and the Red Devils rallied to close out the period on a 14-7 run to trail by just five, 25-20, at the end of the first quarter.
In the second quarter, Eureka continued its assault on the Blue Jays, outscoring Westminster, 26-18, to lead at intermission, 46-43.
But in the third quarter, powered by a fiery halftime speech by Washington that challenged her team to demonstrate its ability to battle back, Westminster stepped up to the challenge. The Red Devils would get their biggest lead of the contest, 54-45, on a layup by Olivia Falls at the 6:23 mark of the quarter. A pair of free throws and a layup by Kallee Dowler, as well as a basket by Abby Nichols, cut Eureka's lead to three, 54-51. But Eureka battled back to regain a six-point advantage, 64-58, at the end of the third.
In the fourth, Westminster would tie the game, 74-all, with 3:53 remaining on a pair of free throws by Mikalyn Callahan. From there Westminster, ignited by a ferocious full-court press, turned up the heat with a 14-2 run that sealed the victory. The Blue Jays outscored Eureka 30-12 in that decisive period.
"Our intensity in the second half helped fuel our run," Washington said. "We capitalized on key turnovers and that's what you have to do when you're down."
On the day the Blue Jays forced 19 Eureka turnovers – nine in the second half.
Dowler led four Blue Jays in double figures with 25 points. Callahan and Abbie Reece each had 16 while Rei Imamura added 11. Falls led a trio of Eureka players in double figures with 30 points; Ja'Keesha Hawkins and Ashley Harfst chipped in 20 and 14 points, respectively.
The Blue Jays shot 37 percent from the field (26-7); 31 percent (8-26) from 3-point range. Eureka shot 39 percent (22-58) from the field; 21 percent (4-19) from beyond the arc. The Blue Jays edged Eureka in fast break points (11-10), second-chance points (19-8) and bench points (12-7) but fell short in points in the paint (32-28) and points off of turnovers (19-18).
Westminster shot a blistering 93 percent (28-30) from the free-throw line, compared to just 78 percent (28-36) for Eureka.
"We showed toughness at the free-throw line," Washington said. "That was huge for us down the stretch in a great team win today."
Westminster (8-11; 7-5) returns to action on Wednesday when the Blue Jays travel to Elsah, Ill., to take on Principia in SLIAC play. Game time is scheduled for 5:30 PM.