Mar 14, 2010 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Twice within the span of a week, the Westhill boys basketball team found itself trailing in the second half, perhaps on the brink of seeing a memorable season come to a premature conclusion.
Each time, when it was needed, the Warriors answered – and because of that, Westhill is on its way to Glens Falls for this weekend’s state Class B final four.
Following up on its rally against Bishop Grimes in the Section III Class B final, the Warriors went to SUNY-Cortland Saturday night and did much the same thing to Section IV champion Binghamton-Seton Catholic, beating the Saints 51-42.
Going in, Westhill knew that patience would be important because, like the Warriors, Seton Catholic prided itself on defense and the ability to shut an opponent down.
Right away, that patience got a severe test. The Saints bolted out to a 9-2 lead in the first four minutes, paced by Dan Farrell’s five-point burst. When Westhill pulled close, Seton Catholic responded and, early in the second quarter, the Warriors trailed 19-10.
For the rest of the half, Westhill hung close, not making any sustained run but preventing the Saints from pulling away as, at the break, Seton Catholic still led by a 29-23 margin. This came despite Dan Ross only making one field goal in the half.
Even as the Warriors’ defense began to fully assert itself early in the third quarter, it still couldn’t catch up, finding itself down 33-29 midway through the frame after Joe Martin’s rebound basket.
What no one, perhaps even the most optimistic of Warrior partisans, could have foreseen was what happened in the next 5 1/2 minutes of play, stretching into the early part of the fourth quarter.
On possession after possession, Westhill’s pressure, with Nathan Nigolian and Tom Fisher at the forefront, forced Seton Catholic into bad shots and turnovers, leading to a shutout the rest of the third period.
Meanwhile, the Warriors got eight straight points to end the quarter to take a 37-33 lead. And that was just the warm-up.
In the first 90 seconds of the final period, Westhill got nine more unanswered points, beginning and ending with baskets from Ross, with Justin Biles sinking two free throws and draining a 3-pointer in between.
As quickly as the Warriors had put away Bishop Grimes, it had now done the same to Seton Catholic. The 17-0 outburst all but decided the game, as the Saints never got closer than nine again.
Overall, Mike McMullen led with 14 points, while Ross and Biles both finished with 13 points. Farrell led Seton Catholic with 15 points, but its other star forward, Tom Torto, had just four points, well below his 13.8 points-per-game average for the season.
On Friday night at 8:30, Westhill meets Batavia in the state Class B semifinals at Glens Falls Civic Center. Batavia made the state semifinals as a Class A team last year, losing a close contest to eventual champion Jamesville-DeWitt. The winner plays Potsdam or Burke Catholic in Saturday night’s championship game at 9 p.m.