Knowing what loomed ahead, the Westhill boys basketball team had to put itself in prime position to challenge Hannibal and Marcellus for the OHSL Liberty division title.
And the Warriors took a major step in that upward direction last Wednesday night, overcoming a quiet night from Dan Ross and again relying on its lockdown defense to beat Skaneateles 48-36 and complete a regular-season sweep of the Lakers.
Back when they first met, in Westhill's season opener at Skaneateles on Nov. 28, Westhill needed a last-second basket from Ross to escape with victory.
Aware of how close that was, and vastly improved, the Warriors made sure that the rematch with the Lakers did not have a similar nail-biting finale.
Neither side started with a lot of flair, but that changed in the second period when Westhill's shots fell on a consistent basis for the only time all night. The Warriors outscored Skaneateles 20-6 in that frame to overcome a modest deficit and carry a 29-17 lead to the break.
Once it went in front, Westhill wouldn't get caught. Mainly, this was due to a defense that only seems to be improving each time it takes the court.
Intense man-to-man pressure kept Skaneateles uncomfortable all game long, forcing both wild shots and turnovers. And if the shots went off line, Tom Trendowski was likely to grab the ball, as he accumulated 14 rebounds and totally outplayed Laker counterpart Jon Eppolito, who had just four points.
With Ross held scoreless, others had to step up on offense -- and did.
Tim Byrne and Matt Noonan both hit a pair of big 3-point shots, as Byrne finished with 15 points and Noonan put up 12 points, a number that Mike Stirpe would match. Together, Byrne, Noonan and Stirpe accounted for all but two of the Warriors' 16 successful field goals. Eric Richards,with 17 points, account for nearly half the Lakers' attack.
Westhill will meet Cazenovia (and its former head coach, Todd Widrick) Tuesday in the makeup of a Dec. 4 snow postponement. As the Warriors were beating Skaneateles, Cazenovia gave 11-0 Marcellus its first defeat, 62-49.