It was the senior leadership of Bellevue West that was the difference maker in the Metro Conference Holiday Tournament championship game.
The Thunderbirds (9-1) topped Millard West 50-42 for their second straight Metro title Friday at the Civic Auditorium.
Seniors Kate Liveringhouse and Madi Braun made the big plays for West in the win.
“Our seniors stepped up and made some huge plays,” T-bird coach Marc Kruger said. “The game came down to will, and I never had the feeling that we were out of control.”
Liveringhouse led the T-birds with 20 points and 11 rebounds and Braun added 13 points.
Braun, who struggled shooting early, started the big plays for West with a 3-pointer with just over 6 minutes left in the fourth to give the T-birds a 35-33 lead. It was only the second 3-pointer of the game, as the T-birds shot 2 of 13 from beyond the arc.
“When Madi hit that 3-pointer, it was like, we finally hit one,” Kruger said. “I think it calmed us down and we were able to relax after that.”
Liveringhouse then closed out the game once she returned to the court with foul trouble with 3 1/2 minutes left. She went 6 for 6 from the line down the stretch and grabbed four rebounds in the waining minutes.
Things were looking bleak for the T-birds when Liveringhouse picked up her fourth foul with a minute left in the third and the Wildcats were on a rally.
Millard West ended the third on a 6-0 run to take a 31-30 lead into the fourth, its first lead of the game.
The Wildcats score the first two of the fourth before the T-birds got back on track to go on an 11-3 run for the game’s final lead change.
Bellevue West’s defense was a major factor, holding the Wildcats 18 points below their per-game average of 60.
Chloe Akin-Otiko and Julie Targy led the defensive effort. Akin-Otiko kept Millard West’s top scorer Sam Waldron to eight points on 2-of-9 shooting.
“The job Chloe did on Waldron was incredible,” Kruger said. “Chloe was everywhere tonight.”
Akin-Otiko added 10 points on offense. Targy tallied four steals on the defensive end, two coming late in the fourth when West needed stops.
Bellevue West’s win avenged an earlier defeat to Millard West 61-47 on Dec. 7.
“The first time we played them we felt like we were good enough defensively to win but not offensively,” Kruger said. “We just found a way to win, tonight, and that’s a testament to our girls.”