Feb 06, 2007 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Events in 2006-07 have made the Westhill boys basketball team an unlikely candidate to earn its third consecutive Section III Class B championship — at least until last week, anyway.
In the span of five days, the Warriors won three times, passed a major road test, and stayed unbeaten at home by taking down the OHSL Liberty division leaders — and humbling its one-time coach in the process.
At the end of this sequence last Friday night, Westhill recorded a huge 59-48 victory over Cazenovia, who came in with a 16-1 record and the no. 8 spot in the state Class B rankings.
It marked the fourth time Todd Widrick, who coached Westhill from 1985 to 2000, brought his Lakers into the Warriors’ gymnasium, and came out with a defeat.
Much as it did when it beat the Warriors 61-46 on Dec. 22 at Buckley Gym, the Lakers concentrated its formidable defense on keeping Jim Ross from doing too much.
That strategy worked — to a point. Ross was held to six points, converting on just three of 14 field goals. All that did, though, was allow his teammates to shine.
Dan Ross, steadily improving in his freshman campaign, came up with 17 points, a season high. Mike Stirpe also got plenty of good looks and converted on them to finish with 16 points.
The real surprise was Matt Noonan, a junior reserve seeing much more action late in the season. He came off the bench to score 10 points, giving Westhill an unexpected boost.
With all this in place, the Warriors erased a 28-27 halftime deficit in the third period, then outscored Cazenovia 19-10 in the final quarter, overcoming Aaron Burbidge’s 20 points (including 12-for-12 free throws) and Peter Lokai’s 12 points and eight rebounds.
This crucial, high-profile week began in a modest and successful way, as the Warriors won at home last Monday night, taking out Faith Heritage 62-52.
In this game, made up from a Jan. 10 weather postponement, Westhill started in some trouble, down 16-9 by the end of the first quarter.
Gradually, the Warriors erased that deficit, showing some patience as it took the lead in the third quarter and kept it, even though Faith never lost sight.
Tim Byrne stepped up in a large way, hitting five 3-pointers on his way to a career-best 17 points. Dan Ross had 13 points, with Jim Ross gaining eight points and Mark Wilson contributing six points.
Now came Wednesday’s trip to Hannibal. Reverting to a familiar formula, Westhill’s defense made a spectacular return in a 51-43 win over the other Warriors present in the OHSL Liberty division.
For much of the game, Hannibal and Westhill mirrored each other’s production. Only a modest 10-8 edge in the second quarter allowed Westhill to carry a 34-32 edge to the final period.
And the issue remained in doubt until Jim Ross used his speed and skill to drive by Hannibal defenders for a pair of huge baskets and Mike Stirpe’s free throws sealed it.
Jim Ross, with 14 points, and Stirpe, with 11 points, were part of a three-pronged attack where Dan Ross helped out with 12 points. For Hannibal, Chad Burridge gained 13 points and Chris Swain added 12 points.
All these wins pushed Westhill’s record to 12-7, and gave the team a major boost that it hopes to sustain in Friday night’s regular-season finale against Solvay.