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There’s Just No Turning Back for Westminster’s Schult

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The coach and the player don’t agree on the moment Kristin Schult became the player at Westminster.

Dick Katz thinks it was in a playoff game last year against Moreno Valley in which Schult had 12 points and 14 rebounds--and was ejected when she and an opponent got a little too emotional while going for a loose ball.

“Ever since then,” Katz said, “she’s been very consistent.”

Schult thinks the turning point was Dec. 30, when her team upset the top-ranked team in Orange County, Woodbridge, which also was ranked third in the nation.

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“I really wasn’t scoring points in the first half, and that’s not that big of a thing to me,” Schult said, “but I wasn’t a contributor. In the second half, I said to myself, ‘C’mon, Kristin, step it up a notch.’ And I thought I did. I played intense. I played good defense, helped out my teammates, and scored when we needed a score.”

She finished with 17 points, and Westminster came from 11 points behind to win, 61-59.

Now, Schult and the Lions--her Lions--have a chance to know what it’s like to be on top of the world.

When she arrived at Westminster as a gangly freshman, the thought of beating a nationally ranked team would have been dismissed as just another attempt to keep her teammates loose.

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“But as she has improved, so have we,” said Katz, whose team is poised to win a share of its first league title in girls’ basketball. The Lions are tied for first in the Golden West League with Ocean View.

Westminster went from 4-16 the season before Schult’s arrival to 5-17, 10-15, 17-8 and now 17-4.

Before Katz took over the program five years ago, the Lions had gone 1-99 the previous five seasons.

“This program symbolizes a typical life,” Schult said. “You’re going to have good times and bad times. I can get over bad times and I can enjoy the good.”

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Schult, a 6-2 center, grew up in the Westminster program practicing against teammate Lisa Tamamasui, a 5-11 power pack who could bench press 230 pounds, according to Katz. Then Schult faced off against teammate Amber Farroux, who was extremely physical and a terrific rebounder.

“As a freshman girl having to play against someone as strong as Tamamasui, it intimidates you a little bit but also makes you work that much harder,” Katz said. “Then, Farroux gave her a superior player to play against. When you’re always going against someone who’s better, it affects your confidence, but you have to work harder and improve. And then, when that player leaves, you look around and all of a sudden, it’s you. And now it’s Kristin.”

Schult is averaging 14.1 points and 6.7 rebounds for the Lions. She credits Tamamasui for her work ethic, and Farroux for her intensity.

Schult’s trademark baseline turnaround jump shot has foiled some of the county’s best teams and established her as one of its premier players.

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Among her more notable performances:

* In the first round of league play against Ocean View, Schult scored nine points as Westminster raced to a 10-2 lead, led by 13 after quarter and cruised to the finish, snapping a 16-game league winning streak by the Seahawks.

* In a 71-65 loss to third-ranked Fountain Valley, Schult had 10 rebounds and 17 points--including two free throws to tie the score with three minutes left. She was seven for 11 from the field.

She’s headed to Grand Canyon College in Phoenix. She has no regrets about signing early with a Division II school, even though Katz said some Division I colleges have inquired about her.

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“It’s nice and small,” she said. “I’m going there for academics--I want to major either in psychology or physical therapy. It’s close to home, so if I want to fly home for a weekend, I can.”

She has come a long way since her freshman season, when the team struggled on the floor, and she struggled with the idea of practicing hard but not getting much playing time.

“Coach told me everyone was important, it’s not just a five-player team, it’s the whole team,” Schult said. “The people who don’t play are the ones who help the starters get ready during practice. I really took that to heart, and that’s why I’ve been able to stick with it. That if I worked hard, things would eventually pay off. And they have.”


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