Kathleen the closer

Kathleen Phillips struggles to explain it.

The Heidelberg guard wasn’t able to offer a definitive explanation Monday night, after her team beat Westminster 77-66.

The question was why Phillips seems to be at her best in the last five-and-a-half minutes of a game. After struggling most of the way Monday, Phillips erupted for eight of her 19 points over the final 5:27.

It pushed Heidelberg over the top against a gritty Titans team that scored the game’s first 11 points, then trailed by 11 early in the second half, then rallied to make it tough on HU until Phillips’ surge.

“I guess it just takes me a while to get going,” said Phillips, who also finished with four assists. “I think it’s a mindset. I know if it’s a close game, I’ve got to come up and make some shots.”

Monday’s game was reminiscent of Saturday’s tilt with Marietta, where Phillips scored 22 of her 24 points after halftime and overcame a sizable deficit to win.

HU coach Morgan Shriver said she wants to see the late-game Phillips show up earlier. Part of the reason she didn’t was because she picked up two first-half fouls, and spent some time on the bench.

“I make sure I let her know that we need her on the floor,” Shriver said. “Those reach-in and dumb fouls she gets … you see what happens. (Westminster) starts chipping away and gets back into the game with her on the bench.

“If she could play like she did down the stretch (from the beginning), she’s a good player, but she’d be an incredible player.”

Monday had all the makings of an off-night for Heidelberg early on. It missed its first seven shots from the floor, allowing the Titans to open the game with an 11-0 run. The stretch was capped by a Courtney Zitt layup, which prompted a Shriver timeout.

“All we talked about since Marietta was intensity and (being) ready to go from the tip,” Shriver said. “I don’t know if the girls were trying to overlook them, we stressed you can’t overlook any team.”

Heidelberg’s Megan Miller, a Columbian graduate, said her team needed to shake off the start.

“I think we just needed to refresh and start over with intensity,” Miller said. “We were lacking intensity from the start.”

Heidelberg was able to refocus and go on a 17-5 run and take a 17-16 edge after a 3 from Allie Hawkins.

HU finished the half strong, thanks in part to Miller. The former Tornado drained a 3 with 14 seconds left to put the Student Princes up 38-29 at the break.

“When Megan takes a shot out of our offense, and sets her feet and is ready to go, I’m very confident in her shooting,” Shriver said.

Miller’s jumper early in the second half extended Heidelberg’s lead to 40-29 (she finished with 12 points), but Westminster was able to chip away at the lead. The Titans went on a 7-0 run. Gabby Holko’s free throws made it 40-36 at the 16:30 mark.

“They kept it at us,” Phillips said. “I don’t think we were expecting that.”

Behind Holko, who had 20 points, the Titans stayed close for much of the second half, using some key offensive boards (they had 15 in the game) to keep Heidelberg from breaking away.

“Rebounding, first off, we definitely need to work on that, because I think we get lucky,” Miller said. “Down the road, we’re not gonna have it that easy.”

Shriver agreed, noting that HU has won four games this season when it lost in rebounding, including Monday.

“(Rebounding) is something we need to stress even more in practice,” she said. “It’s all about the want. Not just boxing out and being in position, but wanting to go get the ball.”

Carli Patrick had 11 points in the win for HU, while Kyra Dorney didn’t score but led the team with eight boards. Nicole Payne had seven points, nine rebounds and two steals.

Westminster had 10 points from Zitt.

Heidelberg improved to 8-2. It has one more non-conference game (at North Park Friday), then doesn’t play again until Jan. 4.

“We’ve just gotta take care of business Friday and go into the break 9-2,” Miller said.

Westminster fell to 2-5.