Even as it blazed to a 3-0 start, the Westhill boys basketball team still had a lot to work on. It was just that no opponent had made the Warriors pay for its errors.
All that changed on Wednesday night, when the Warriors saw a seven-point fourth-quarter lead slip away in a 48-44 loss to Skaneateles.
Many of the pregame factors favored Westhill, from playing on its home court to the fact that it knocked out Skaneateles each of the last two seasons in the Section III Class B playoffs, including a 50-36 decision in 2009.
But these were not the same Lakers as a season ago. It arrived at Westhill with a 3-1 record and a freight train full of momentum after a stunning Dec. 11 rally against Marcellus where it came back from 10 points down with less than two minutes left to beat the Mustangs 59-57.
So it didn't concern Skaneateles one bit when Westhill bolted out to an 11-2 lead in the game's first five minutes, fueled by a pair of Mike McMullen 3-pointers. Nor did it worry the Lakers when Westhill ended the period ahead 17-8, its trademark defense forcing the visitors into long possessions, rushed shots (including a couple of air balls) and turnovers.
Everything started to change when Dan Ross went to the bench with two early fouls. Right away, the Lakers had more of a presence on the boards, and the Warriors' lead was cut to 24-22 by halftime as Kevin Rice and Tom Schoener (eight points each) led the Skaneateles push.
Yet even with Ross sitting much of the third quarter with four fouls, Westhill stayed out in front, extending the lead to 40-33 early in the final period. But the Lakers had found its comfort zone and, just like it did against Marcellus, it would storm back.