Mar 20, 2010 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
For the second time in less than a year, a team from Westhill is bringing home a New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class B championship.
Fresh on the heels of what the baseball Warriors accomplished last June in Binghamton, the Westhill boys basketball team beat Burke Catholic 60-51 Saturday night at Glens Falls Civic Center to claim its own state title.
It’s the second state championship in Westhill boys basketball history, adding to the crown won by coach Todd Widrick’s squad in 1997. What made it even more impressive was that, all through the weekend of this state final four, the Warriors never trailed once in either of the two contests.
Having already beaten Batavia 69-53 in the semifinal Friday night, the Warriors turned its attention to Burke Catholic, the Section IX champions who hail from Goshen in Orange County. The Eagles entered the game as the state’s top-ranked team.
But from the moment Mike McMullen sank a 3-pointer in the corner for the game’s first points, to the time McMullen returned to sink four clinching free throws in the final seconds, the Warriors had the edge.
How they kept that edge involved all of the elements head coach Kevin King’s charges had displayed in the four months leading up to this championship moment.
First, it was the Warriors’ trademark defense at work, limiting Burke to just two field goals in the game’s first five minutes through man-to-man pressure that forced a series of mistakes.
Despite this, the Warriors only led 13-11 after one period. It was just the time for someone to step up – and Nathan Nigolian did so.
Nigolian converted a pair of baskets to keep Westhill out in front. Then, twice within the span of a minute, the junior connected on 3-point shots.
All told, it was 10 points within a four-minute span, and it pushed Westhill’s lead to 30-19 before the Eagles closed the margin to 30-23 at halftime.
Whether it was open outside shots for McMullen, or clever back-door cuts executed by Tom Fisher, J.T. Alcaro and Dan Karleski, Westhill always kept the Eagles off balance and answered every time Burke tried to get close.
Midway through the third quarter, Westhill had a 41-29 edge, but when the Eagles’ full-court pressure began to pick up as the game entered the homestretch, it got tight.
The stress level hit its high mark when the Eagles’ Richie Douglas made a steal and converted on a lay-up with 1:25 left, cutting the margin to 53-51.
Moments later, though, Dan Ross answered with a runner of his own, making it 55-51, and McMullen’s perfect run at the foul line in the final seconds made it all official.
For the night, McMullen had a team-high 20 points, while Ross finished with 13 points and 10 rebounds. Nigolian earned 12 points. Fisher had seven points and matched Ross with 10 rebounds of his own, while Karleski got eight points. Dante Cowart led the Eagles with 17 points and nine rebounds.
Westhill has one more weekend of work left. It goes back to Glens Falls for the state Federation championship, playing in the semifinals next Friday at 3:15 against the champions of the New York City Public School Athletic League. The final is Saturday at 5:45.