Westhill girls taken out by South Jefferson again

True, the Westhill girls basketball team's 2007-08 took on an unusual trajectory, one that didn't include its normal status as a heavyweight in the Section III Class B ranks.

Yet the Warriors' season did have a familiar ending -- playoff elimination at the hands of South Jefferson.

The no. 1 seed Spartans, in hot pursuit of its sixth consecutive sectional crown, took an early lead on Westhill in Thursday's Class B-1 quarterfinal and never let it go, beating the Warriors by a score of 54-40.

Westhill and South Jefferson were supposed to play last Tuesday night, but a fierce lake-effect snowstorm hit Adams and the rest of the north country hard, forcing the game to be postponed twice.

Once all the snow cleared out, the Warriors ventured to Adams bent on ending years of post-season frustration at the Spartans' expense.

Though a young team this winter, South Jefferson still plays with the same winning formula -- a multi-faceted defense that seems to change with every possession, executed by a deep and athletic roster that, due to constant rotation and substitution, never seems to wear out.

That defense clamped down early, holding Westhill to just five points in the first quarter and doing a particular number on Carly Cooper, the Warriors' leading scorer.

All night long, Cooper found it difficult to get any open looks against Spartan guards Leah Williams and Lauren Gilligan, and she finished with just seven points, something that could not happen if Westhill wanted to pull off the upset.

Steadily, the margin grew as the night went on, even though Annie O'Connor (12 points), Emily Haggerty and Samantha Marshall (six points each) tried to make up for Cooper's struggles.

Linsey Niles, South Jefferson's lone returning star from last year's state finalists, hurt Westhill with 21 points and nine rebounds, as Rachael Bassett added nine points and six assists. The Spartans will play Watertown IHC in Saturday's B-1 semifinal at Sandy Creek.

Overall, Westhill went 7-15 this winter, never really recovering from the torn ACL that sidelined potential starting center Kayley Arsenault for the season.

What helps, for 2008-09, is that most of the team will return, including Cooper and O'Connor, giving the Warriors a chance to regain its place among the elite again.

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