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Warriors tip off, split against elite AA foes

Some things with the Westhill girls basketball team do not change all that much -- the relentless effort in practice, the high volume of wins, the desire to chase down and claim championships.

What does change in 2006-07, though, is that the Warriors make that effort without Carlee Cassidy, who poured in more than 2,000 points in her varsity career and averaged 25.5 per game in her senior season.

But even with Cassidy, the Warriors, 20-2 last winter, were denied the Section III Class B-1 title by its nemesis, South Jefferson, who would eventually win the state championship.

Now for head coach Sue Ludwig, a new challenge arose -- and the Warriors were ready for it.

In its first two games of the season at the Oswego Tournament, Westhill went 1-1, putting up a pair of admirable efforts against teams expected to challenge for the Class AA title later this season.

The Warriors could not have started better, taking it right to Liverpool in last Friday night's opening round and beating those other Warriors 59-46.

A tight first half saw Liverpool pull out in front, 26-25, but Westhill used its speed and conditioning to wear down the opposition in the second half, limiting Liverpool to just seven points in the fourth quarter as it pulled away.

Lisa Olszewski, Westhill's imposing 6-3 senior center, poured in 17 points, but Liverpool's defense could not concentrate on stopping her because the perimeter shooters were hot.

In fact, Annie O'Connor (13 points) and Carly Cooper (12 points) both hit on three 3-point shots, and Kristen Diglio added 11 points.

Good as that was, Westhill could not repeat the magic in Saturday's final against the hosts from Oswego, as the Buccaneers prevailed 60-52.

Steadily, the Bucs built a 46-38 lead through three periods, and held on despite a monstrous game from Cooper. The talented sophomore poured in 29 points, hitting on eight 3-pointers along the way.

No other Warrior scored in double figures, though, and Olszewski was held to three points. Meanhwile, Oswego's junior forward, Nikki Carroll, matched Cooper with 29 points of her own and got help from Corrin Conroy (10 points) and Cari Reed (nine points).

Even with that defeat, Westhill felt a lot better about its prospects this season, as OHSL Liberty division play began Tuesday night at Jordan-Elbridge.

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