Depleted in its roster and cold after two weeks without a game, the Westhill boys basketball team had all the excuses lined up in case last Friday's visit to red-hot Solvay did not work out.
But the Warriors would need none of them, returning to traditional form despite a pared-down roster and gaining the upper hand in one of its most bitter rivalries, beating the Bearcats 57-35.
Westhill had not played in two weeks, since its ill-fated trip to Cazenovia on Dec. 22, and had spent that time practicing hard and making the full adjustment to life without departed junior guard Dale Ross.
What it didn't expect, though, was that Jim Ross, the team's leading scorer, would also go to the sidelines, as he and Matt Noonan both served suspensions for the Solvay game.
Meanwhile, Solvay entered the game with all kinds of positive feelings. Following its win in the Skaneateles Holiday Tournament on Dec. 28 (beating the host Lakers in the finals), the Bearcats ventured to Faith Heritage last Wednesday and came out on top again, toppling the Saints 52-45.
Given all this, and given the fact that Solvay would have a distinct home-court advantage, it looked like the Bearcats would handle Westhill.
Instead, it went the other way around. Emphasizing defense above everything else, the Warriors swarmed Solvay and held it to just three points in the first quarter, a drought from which it never fully recovered.
By halftime, it was 27-15 in Westhill's favor, and the visitors kept building the lead as all sorts of new figures emerged to pick up the offensive slack for Jim Ross.
Freshman Dan Ross continued his rise to prominence, leading with 14 points. John Pellegrini, Tom Trendowski and Dan Gasapo each finished with seven points, while Tim Byrne threw in six points. Joe Barnello, with 13 points, was the lone Solvay player to reach double figures.