Sure, the calendar read Dec. 8, but the Westhill boys basketball team's battle with Bishop Grimes last Friday night had a post-season feel to it, as if more was at stake than just an early marker in the OHSL Liberty division.
And the excitement carried all the way to the end, where the Warriors, down 12 at one point in the second half, used a well-timed defensive play by freshman Dan Ross to help pull out a 65-64 victory over the Cobras.
Despite an inspired comeback, Westhill still was trailing, 64-61, after Anthony Bielak sank a pair of free throws for Grimes with 21.5 seconds left.
Jim Ross, who had kept the Warriors in it all night with his all-around play, added two more to the total (he finished with a game-high 26 points) on a driving lay-up with 13.7 seconds to play, making it 64-63, and Westhill immediately called a time-out.
Grimes tried to inbound the ball underneath the basket -- but with perfect timing, Dan Ross made a clean steal and quickly fed it to Mike Stirpe, who was fouled with 10.1 seconds left.
Ignoring the bedlam around him, Stirpe coolly converted both free throws to put the Warriors in front by one. Grimes still could win it, but Bielak's driving lay-up attempt was too strong, leading to a scramble for the ball as the clock ran out.
So ended a sensational game where Westhill started out 7-0, only to have Grimes surge ahead by the end of the first quarter and carry a 28-27 lead to the break.
Finding production inside from Frank Majka, who had 10 of his 18 points in the third quarter, the Cobras built the lead to 46-34 late in that period.
Just when it needed to, the Warriors rallied, using a 9-0 run in the fourth quarter to go back in front, 54-53, and the two sides exchanged that lead all the way to the end.