Jan 08, 2010 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
To reach the top of the OHSL Liberty division, the Westhill boys basketball team had to face what looked to be the toughest examination possible.
As it turned out, though, it didn’t prove so difficult.
In front of a jam-packed crown in East Syracuse, the Warriors mostly relied on its trademark man-to-man defense and gave 10-0, state Class B no. 6-ranked Bishop Grimes its first defeat of the season in a 53-44 decision.
Other than a fourth-quarter Grimes surge, the Warriors were in firm control throughout much of the proceedings, drawing from the confidence gained by winning the CBA Holiday Classic a week earlier.
“We realized (when we won the tournament) that we can beat anyone if we go out and play Westhill defense,” senior center Tom Fisher said.
Grimes got a full close-up look at that Westhill defense, which did not waste much time asserting itself.
The Cobras earned a pair of field goals in the game’s opening minute. And it only had two field goals for the rest of the first half.
Westhill applied pressure on every possession and every shot, forcing most of them off line. And with Fisher and Dan Ross controlling the boards, Grimes did not get many second chances, either.
Fisher said the focus of the Warriors’ defense was to make life difficult for Mike Stone, the Grimes junior who averages nearly 22 points per game.
“We just got in Stone’s face and didn’t give anyone easy shots,” Fisher said.
Meanwhile, the Warriors’ own offense was effective enough, especially when Mike McMullen’s 3-pointer at the end of the first half ignited a 10-0 run that stretched the lead to 36-15 early in the third quarter.
Though Grimes tried to chip away, that margin was still a healthy 45-27 with 5:30 to play. But it wasn’t over.
Stone and teammate Mike Sugamosto made a series of shots and the Cobras picked up its own full-court pressure. Grimes took just two minutes to shrink Westhill’s lead to single digits, igniting the home crowd for the first time all night.
“We’ve had trouble in the past in this gym,” Fisher said. “We were concerned, but we didn’t lose our composure.”
Grimes would pull within five, 49-44, on Tavon Moore’s free throw with 1:07 left, but would not score again as, again, the shots fell off line. Meanwhile, Fisher and J.T. Alcaro sank the clinching free throws.
Overall, Ross had 12 points, while Fisher and Alcaro each had nine points. Justin Biles came off the bench to score eight points as Dan Karleski added six points. Stone led both sides with 17 points, with Sugamosto contributing 13 points.
At 8-1 as it hit the midway point of the regular season, the Warriors get another big road test next Friday, when it visits Marcellus.