Jan 26, 2010 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Once again, the students were on the floor at Westhill High School Tuesday night, celebrating a key basketball victory in the heated OHSL Liberty division.
Only it was Marcellus students in the happy mood – and that was something that hadn’t been seen in a while.
Erasing all kinds of recent frustrations in both basketball and football, the Mustangs beat the Warriors 47-45 in overtime, a game in doubt until the very last shot.
“It’s nice to finally beat these guys,” senior Will Fiacchi said. “And it’s great for our team and our program.”
Down by two with time running out in OT, Westhill set up Dan Ross from the left wing for a 3-point shot that could win it. Though not known as a strong perimeter shooter, Ross had an open look, took it – and it fell off the rim as the clock ran to zero.
So ended the Mustangs’ second overtime victory over a big rival in a span of four days. It had required two OT’s to beat Skaneateles 63-56 on Jan. 16.
This late-season surge, said head coach Jim Marsh, coincides with his team’s return to full strength. At one point early this winter, Marcellus had just eight healthy and active players, but everyone is back now.
Less than two weeks earlier, Westhill had gone to Marcellus and edged the Mustangs 47-43, and it knew that, even back at home, the rematch would be just as tough.
But it didn’t seem that way at the start, as the Warriors raced to a 20-9 lead early in the second quarter, pushed there by Mike McMullen, who had 10 of his points.
But McMullen only had one field goal the rest of the night, and Marcellus would use an 11-3 run to close within 23-20 by halftime.
“For some reason, we are more comfortable playing from behind,” Marsh said.
Here, and in the third period, something new happened for Marcellus – big offensive contributions from players other than Fiacchi and Will Nolan.
Between them, guard Luke McNaney and forward Steve Raven accounted for all the Mustangs’ points in a 10-2 third-quarter run. Early in the final period, the Mustangs led by eight, 36-28, having held Westhill to just three total field goals since that 20-9 start.
Still, Westhill would fight back with a 10-2 spurt of its own that covered most of the final period and tied it, 38-38, setting up an exciting finish to regulation.
With one minute left, Nathan Nigolian’s 3-pointer pushed the Warriors back in front 41-38, but Fiacchi answered with a deep 3-pointer from the left corner with 36 seconds to play to tie it again, 41-41.
Working the clock down, Westhill watched Marcellus nearly get a steal out of its 2-3 zone, but it scrambled to get McMullen the ball and, with two players in his face, he tried a 3-pointer to win it, but it rolled off the rim.
Again, the Mustangs’ defense would step up in overtime, blanking Westhill over the game’s final 2:20 after each side got four early points.
Fiacchi, who finished with 12 points, hit a free throw with 1:50 left as Marcellus inched again. Following that, both sides made big stops as Ross and Tom Fisher both missed possible go-ahead shots in the waning moments.
Raven, fouled with 8.1 seconds to play, hit one free throw but missed the second, giving Westhill one more opportunity – but it would not go.
Overall, Raven had 13 points, one more than Fiacchi, with Nolan and McNaney each getting nine points. Ross joined McMullen with 12 points as Dan Karleski added seven points.
Now in second place in the OHSL Liberty behind Bishop Grimes, Westhill saw a key Thursday game at Skaneateles snowed out — but it did play Saturday against New Hartford and hammered the Spartans 83-45.
Burning at the start, Westhill led 28-7 at the close of the first quarter and kept extending that margin until it was 70-34 at the start of the final period.
Before going to the bench early, Ross had 21 points, with Karleski (17 points) close behind. McMullen had nine points, while Nigolian and Gino Sgori earned eight points apiece and Kevin McAvoy got seven points. In all, 10 different Westhill players got field goals.
Back on Friday, Marcellus ripped Hannibal 73-50, as a 19-9 third-quarter run helped the Mustangs pull away from that other group of Warriors.
Whatever Hannibal tried on defense, Fiacchi solved it, on his way to 30 points, including 11 field goals. Raven earned 17 points, while Nolan got eight points.
Ironically, Marcellus could help Westhill get a shot at the outright league title — at least if it beats Bishop Grimes Friday night in East Syracuse.