Poised to give itself one of its bigger post-season conquests in recent memory, the West Genesee boys basketball team could not quite get to that goal.
Instead, the Wildcats' 61-49 defeat to top seed and defending champion Henninger in last Friday's Section III Class AA quarterfinal symbolized the team's season -- tough for anyone to beat, but not always able to close things out.
Having just played Henninger in this same gym two weeks earlier, WG had a good familiarity with what the Black Knights could do, which helped explain how well the no. 8 seed Wildcats would do in the first half.
They played to a 15-15 tie in the first quarter, and in the second period the Wildcats continued to find gaps in Henninger's defense. What was more, Joe Fazio was enjoying his best offensive effort of the season, hitting four 3-pointers on his way to 21 points for the night.
Going to the break, WG led 30-25, and the margin grew by as much as nine in the third quarter. Right at that moment, though, Henninger began to remind the Wildcats why it had that top seed.
The Black Knights stormed back, tying it 41-41 by the start of the final period, then took over in those last eight minutes, limiting WG to just nine points on the defensive side while showing nice variety on its attack.
Senior point guard Kihary Blue was too familiar to Wildcat fans, having quarterbacked Henninger's football team past WG in last fall's Class AA finals in the Carrier Dome.
Now, Blue would shine again, with 20 points and 10 assists, feeding it to Jermaine Taylor (15 points), Jon Cooper (10 points) and James Bardenett (nine points) as Henninger got away to set up a AA semifinal this weekend with Fayetteville-Manlius.
By contrast, WG never found an offensive complement to Fazio, as the next-highest scorer, Jack Conboy, had just six points. Tyler Carr and Eric Spencer each had five points. Conor Regin, Colin Monroe and Greg Wadach had just four field goals between them.
The loss to Henninger meant that WG concluded its season at 10-12. Wins over the likes of CBA and Corcoran highlighted this run, and now standouts like Conboy, Fazio and Regin depart. But Wadach, Carr, Monroe and Spencer make for a solid returning core for next season.