Three straight months, three straight encounters with Bishop Grimes -- and three victories for the Westhill boys basketball team.
And the third one meant the most, for it gave the Warriors the Section III Class B championship, earned Sunday when it beat the Cobras 63-50 at Utica Memorial Auditorium.
That win sends Westhill (19-2) into the state tournament, where it will meet Section IV champion Binghamton Seton Catholic in Saturday's regional final at SUNY-Cortland. The winner advances to next weekend's state final four in Glens Falls.
Despite the comfortable final margin, it was far from a simple affair. Westhill actually trailed, 22-18, at halftime before unleashing all of its powers in a third quarter that proved decisive.
Both of those first two meetings, on Jan. 8 and Feb. 12, featured Westhill sprinting out to big leads, and when Mike McMullen and Dan Ross accounted for all the points in an 11-4 start to the sectional final, all looked to be normal.
For the rest of the first half, though, Westhill slowed down and went cold, beaten on the boards and thrown out of rhythm as Grimes, fired up to avenge those earlier missteps, bolted ahead.
"We were holding the ball and not moving it around," head coach Kevin King said.
McMullen agreed. "They knew our plays, and it was tough to get open," he said.
Yet from the moment McMullen sank a 3-pointer on Westhill's first possession of the third quarter, things turned. The Warriors connected five times beyond the arc during a 26-8 blitz, all the while maintaining its trademark defensive pressure.
J.T. Alcaro hit on a pair of treys in that crucial quarter, and Justin Biles also converted on his way to 11 points. Fittingly, McMullen provided the exclamation point with a 25-foot shot that found the net just before the quarter ended to make it 44-30. Grimes never got close again.
All told, McMullen had 17 points, while Ross pounded his way to 12 points. More importantly, Ross, along with Tom Fisher, completely took Grimes forward Mike Sugamosto out of the game on the defensive side, holding him without a field goal. And this after Sugamosto had a triple-double in the Cobras' double-overtime semifinal win over Skaneateles. That negated the efforts of Mike Stone (20 points) and Kucjok Ater (13 points) on the Cobras' side.