The Westminster Christian Academy Wildcats began the girls basketball season with a championship.
The Wildcats, under new coach Kat Martin, won the recent 32nd annual Troy Invitational with a 48-42 victory over the Holt Indians.
“Playing in the tournament was a great way to open the season,” Martin said. “It was really nice to have three games in our first week and get out and play. We felt like it was a very strong field. To have the No. 3 and No. 4 seeds playing in the championship game was a testament to the parity among teams. Great matchups.”
Martin, a Trinity International University graduate, most recently coached at Saint Louis University as an assistant women’s coach. Before that, Martin served one season as assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and has 12 years of collegiate coaching experience.
Now, she’s the head coach at Westminster Christian Academy.
Before the season began, Martin said the coaching staff had “really been emphasizing our transition offense and rebounding.”
She likes what she has seen from her squad.
“I knew we had the potential to be good but I wasn’t sure how quickly it would all come together or how quickly the team would embrace a new style and different looks than what they had done in the past,” Martin said.
Westminster opened tourney play with a 79-27 win over St. Charles. The Wildcats used what they had learned to good effect.
“I loved our focus and passion,” Martin said. “St. Charles is a good team and we forced them in to some bad decisions. Our defensive intensity lead to our offensive output. Everyone was locked in on the game plan and came out playing as hard as they could. Everyone embraced their role and we really clicked. Happy to see their hard work pay off.”
The Wildcats followed that with a 58-44 semifinal win over Fort Zumwalt South.
“I love that in the first two games we had a freshman come off the bench and score double digits for us,” Martin said. “We aren’t a very deep bench numbers wise but we are deep in talent and to be able to have so many different combinations and lineup options should make us a tough team to matchup with.”
Fort Zumwalt South defeated top-seeded Eureka 65-49 to earn its semifinal berth. The Bulldogs gave the Wildcats a good game.
“South was a lot more physical than I was anticipating,” Martin said. “From watching them upset No. 1 Eureka in the first game, I knew it was going to be a great test. They did a great job crashing the boards.
“I was really proud of senior Macey Lottmann’s defense on their leading scorer. She really set the tone for us on the defensive end. We got in a rhythm and able to make a little run, but a battle to the end.”
The victory set up the championship match with Holt. Martin said her girls prepared well in the short time they had to get ready.
“We were really focused for the Holt game,” Martin said. “With one day prep, we went to practice (last) Friday with a very specific game plan. We were confident in what we could control and paid attention to the details. Executing the game plan led to our success.
“My emphasis for this game was to finish strong. We led the entire game and I challenged the team to learn from Thursday’s game and show poise to withstand their runs. I never felt like we weren’t in control of the game or the tempo and just loved seeing the team’s reaction to their hard work paying off and the program’s first Pepsi Tournament Championship.”
What set Westminster apart from Holt, Martin said, was its poise and and learning from its mistakes. The Wildcats also “valued the ball” and didn’t make many turnovers.
Several players showed Martin their ability on the floor.
“Different people stepped up in different ways,” Martin said. “Brooke Highmark and Reilly Brophy put on impressive offensive outputs. Macey Lottmann and Carsyn Beachy did a great job defensively. Carlie Vick rolled her ankle mid-game Thursday and still managed to dominate the boards on Saturday. Our bench stepped up and fulfilled specific roles at the right time-overall just really proud of everyone.
“To see their smiles and eyes dance was pretty special. I’m very encouraged. They are hungry and I want to feed that hunger. This is a very special team.”
Westminster plays at Kirkwood in a 6 p.m. Monday (Dec. 9).
Then comes the Metro League opener as well as the home-court opener for the Wildcats. Westminster will host Lutheran North in a 6 p.m. game Friday.
“We are really looking forward to defending our home court and playing in front of our friends and family,” Martin said. “Our theme this year is ‘Be Fierce.’ I felt like we were fierce in our pursuits this last week.”