Westhill denied by Hannibal in Class B final

Perhaps in the end, all that separated the Westhill boys basketball team from its namesakes at Hannibal was a little bit of seasoning.

The two Warrior teams dueled Tuesday night in the Section III Class B overall final at Cicero-North Syracuse High School, and Hannibal's experience and poise down the stretch helped it beat Westhill 53-45.

It marked Hannibal's third consecutive sectional title, a fitting send-off for a senior-heavy roster and for head coach Ken Sturges, who is retiring after this season.

Yet for a long time in this game, Westhill, a team with just one senior on its roster (Mike Mascari), appeared poised to spoil Hannibal's quest for a three-peat.

One key advantage for Westhill was its intimate knowledge of Hannibal's system through two regular-season meetings, each side winning once on their respective home courts.

So even though Hannibal had a considerable size advantage, with centers Brenden Nollet (6-7) and Matej Schinko (6-9) sharing time in the paint against Tom Fisher (6-6), Westhill could adapt and stay close.

Sure enough, the two sides traded runs late in the first quarter, ending up tied 13-13. They were still even, 17-17, when Hannibal made its first big move, as Tyler Baker sparked a 10-0 run that helped the Class B-2 champs gain a 27-20 halftime edge.

Despite this, Westhill's perimeter defense, anchored by Mascari and Mike McMullen, remained strong, and in the second half it would not allow a 3-pointer, giving the Class B-1 champions plenty of time to rally.

Still down seven, 31-24, Westhill used back-to-back 3-pointers by J.T. Alcaro to close the gap, and it only trailed by three, 35-32, going into the fourth quarter.

Baskets by Nate Nigolian and Dan Ross helped Westhill pull within one, 39-38, midway through the fourth quarter, and if it could get the lead, Hannibal would be in some trouble.

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