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CEDAR RAPIDS Cedar Rapids Washington's leading scorer planted her navy and black Jordans into the silver paint covering the court at Cedar Rapids Xavier. With her fingers clenched making two fists, Abby Herb extended her arms by her waist and looked toward the rafters. The senior forward yelled up to the navy and white Xavier championship banners, "Let's go!"
That came seconds after she planted the same Jordans in the same lane, and took a charge. Herb's teammates got the message. Forty-three seconds later, a three-point deficit became a three-point lead.
"Just taking charges, for me, it just changes the energy for the game for us," Herb said. "It gives us energy. Like saying 'Let's go' I'm like let's go, let's just do this."
The Warriors did.
It took a while for Washington (8-2, 4-2) to follow through on Herb's cry, but it erased a third-quarter deficit to beat Xavier (6-5, 4-2), 57-49. Despite trailing in the second half, the Warriors wrestled away the Saints' momentum in the first half.
"I thought we gave it away the last minute and half before half," Xavier coach Tom Lilly said. "I think we had them on the ropes a little bit, if you want to call it that."
The defense repeated the feat in the second half, again igniting a game-changing run. Sophie Malcolm took a charge when the Warriors trailed by three. This time it took a little longer for Washington to respond. But three minutes later, it pieced together a 4-0 run to lead 37-36 to go to fourth.
"Anytime we're able to take a charge that's big for us," Washington coach Frank Howell said. "It's something we get really excited about."
Known for her scoring, Herb's defense continued to allow the Warriors to execute offensively. In the midst of the end-of-quarter run, Herb caused a defensive five-second call.
Her teammates followed suit in the fourth. Madison Kramer blocked center Ashley Stulken's shot, ran the sideline and buried a 3-pointer to increase the Warrior lead to five. It never fell below three again.
That was the final example of Washington's defense gift-wrapping a victory to start 2013.
"For us to take two charges in one game," Howell said. "That's like Christmas all over again for me."