SYRACUSE Barely into December, the Westhill girls basketball team is already 2-0, and already staking its claim as a prime contender for both league and Section III honors.
The Warriors earned an impressive win Friday night, relying on a new/old defensive scheme and balanced scoring to beat Christian Brothers Academy 54-41.
A season ago, Westhill reached the sectional Class B semifinals and, in doing so, gave head coach Sue Ludwig her 400th career win. Four months later, Ludwig was named to the 2011 class of the Greater Syracuse Sports Hall of Fame.
Four starters - Anna Ross, Maggie Tripodi, Gwen Dougherty and Sam Peebles - are back from that 2010-11 squad, with designs on earning a first sectional title since 2003. And Westhill started fast on Wednesday, ripping Fulton 58-27.
However, CBA was expected to provide a bigger test, given that it had most of its lineup back from a team that, like Westhill, went to the sectional semifinals (in Class AA) last winter.
With just nine health players on hand, Ludwig has inserted a match-up zone defense, something similar to what she did earlier in her Westhill tenure. The system combines man-to-man and zone looks and, when effective, can cause confusion for an opponent not used to it.
That's what happened here. The Warriors, as a unit, clamped down throughout the first half, holding CBA without a point for more than four minutes during the second quarter and never trailing as it took a 21-13 lead to halftime.
The Brothers did not go away, though, eating away at Westhill's margin in the third quarter and, with Alyssa Pitonzo's jumper late in the period, pulling even at 27-27.
Steph Baron, coming off the bench, immediately answered with a three-point play, which pushed the Warriors ahead for good and ignited a 7-0 run. Then Ross made three consecutive steals early in the fourth quarter as CBA never got closer than five points (40-35) again.