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.