Six long years have passed since the Westhill girls basketball team has basked in the collective glow of earning a Section III championship.
For much of that period, South Jefferson kept the Warriors from the top spot -- but in 2008-09, it was Cazenovia serving as the roadblock, accounting for three of Westhill's four defeats, including a 41-30 decision in the Class B-1 semifinals.
Now, with six seniors gone (including stars like Carly Cooper, Annie O'Connor, Sam Marshall and Valerie Golembiewski), head coach Sue Ludwig hopes a new starting lineup will get the Warriors back to the top.
The Warriors' opening-week action featured two OHSL Liberty division neighbors, starting with last Tuesday's trip to Jordan-Elbridge and a hard-fought 43-32 win over the Eagles.
J-E, 10-11 a season ago, also saw six seniors depart, including Kate Dungey, Sarah Fordyce and Aimee Briggs.
But with senior Liz Caspari and sophomore Molly Hourigan leading the cast of returnees, the Eagles had an upset in mind against Westhill, beating the Warriors' pressure and racing out to a 14-9 first-quarter advantage.
Just as quickly, though, J-E went cold, and Westhill took full advantage, outscoring the Eagles 25-9 over the course of the next two periods to assume control.
Emily Haggerty, Westhill's lone returning starter, led her side with 16 points, while eighth-grade newcomer Anna Ross had a strong varsity debut with 12 points. Kathryn Christensen added six points. J-E, in defeat, saw Caspari earn 12 points and Hourigan add nine points.
Now Westhill turned its attention to Friday's game against Marcellus, coming off its own strong '08-09 season where it went 13-8 before falling to the Warriors in the B-1 quarterfinals.
Again, it proved tough -- but again, Westhill prevailed, taking out the Mustangs 46-38.
It was a game in complete doubt through the first three periods. Both sides played first-rate defense, and it was 33-32 going into the final quarter -- when Westhill's pressure led to Mustang mistakes.