Jan 11, 2011 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Maybe the faces on the Westhill boys basketball team are different – but what hasn’t changed is its ability to beat Bishop Grimes.
Trailing for much of Tuesday night’s game against the Cobras, the Warriors made it all the way back and, by scoring the game’s last eight points, knocked off Grimes by a score of 65-58.
A season ago, these two OHSL Liberty division foes met three times. All three times, Westhill won, including the Section III Class B final as it eventually earned a state championship.
With so many of the key players gone from that title team, the Warriors were expected, this time around, to step aside as a senior-heavy Grimes squad led by senior Mike Stone would get its turn at the top.
So much for expectations. Stone, who torched Cazenovia for 42 points in his previous outing on Jan. 7, managed just 14 points on this night and did not even take a free throw.
Credit for that goes to Westhill senior Nathan Nigolian, who put together one of the best defensive performances of his career. Wherever Stone went, Nigolian followed, challenging every inch of court space and forcing Stone into bad shots – two of them in the final minute as Westhill made its decisive charge.
Meanwhile, two other seniors, Justin Biles and Kevin McAvoy, led the offense, which had sputtered in the early going as Grimes bolted out to a 24-13 lead by the second quarter.
McAvoy’s nine first-half points helped Westhill crawl back within five, 29-24, by halftime. Then BIles got hot in the third quarter, hitting on everything from driving lay-ups to a rare four-point play late in the period. When Nigolian converted a lay-up in the waning seconds, Westhill took its first lead of the night, 51-50, as the fourth quarter loomed.
Six times, the lead would change hands in the final period, but after Mike Sugamosto’s basket put Grimes back in front 58-57 with 2:08 left, the Cobras would not score again, Westhill’s defense playing its best in the clutch.
Biles hit the basket with 1:21 left that pushed the Warriors ahead for good, 59-58, with 1:21 to play, and after Stone missed a 3-pointer, McAvoy got open for a lay-up with 42 seconds left to make it 61-58.
Another Grimes possession – and another Stone miss, leading to a fast break and McAvoy connecting on one more basket with 19 seconds left, all but sealing the comeback win.
For the game, Biles had 19 points, 17 of them in the second half, while McAvoy poured in 17 points and junior Joe Meluni had his best game to date, finishing with 14 points. Nigolian added seven points. Four Grimes players hit double figures as Sugamosto led with 15 points, with Stone, Gai Ater and Connor Sohl (12 points each) close behind.
This sets up, for Westhill, the first of two highly-anticipated regular-season clashes with its closest neighbor, Bishop Ludden, on Friday night in Geddes. Ludden is currently in first place in the OHSL Liberty division – but the Warriors, now 4-1 in league play after beating Grimes, could close the gap.