Feb 03, 2011 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Name the setting – familiar or hostile. And name the circumstance – comfortable or nervous. Every time, it seems like the Skaneateles boys basketball team has the right answer, and keeps on winning.
The Lakers’ hold on first place in the OHSL Liberty division only grew stronger Thursday night when it went to second-place Westhill and, with early domination and late poise, beat the defending state Class B champion Warriors 73-64 to complete a regular-season sweep and earn its 12th consecutive victory.
Even as star center Pat Roberts sat out most of the second half with foul trouble, and even as Westhill whittled a 14-point deficit down to four, the Lakers kept calm, which, according to head coach Karl Norris, was quite a statement in itself.
“This win says a lot about us,” said Norris. “We did not play great early in the second half, but we battled through. And we played well defensively down the stretch.”
For the first time this year, the Lakers are in the state Class B rankings – no. 18, to be exact. Yet it knew that the rematch with Westhill, a team it thrashed 75-49 back on Dec. 17, would prove a lot tougher on the Warriors’ home court – especially since Westhill had won eight straight league games, and 9 out of 10 overall, since that first encounter.
With that knowledge, Skaneateles played a strong first half. Tight man-to-man defense forced the Warriors into all kinds of bad shots, and the hosts didn’t get a field goal until the game was more than four minutes old.
Meanwhile, a three-pronged Laker attack confounded the Warriors’ usually stout defense. Roberts controlled the paint for 10 first-half points as Paul O’Donnell hit three 3-pointers on his way to 11 points for the half. Brandon Barron chimed in with nine points, including a 21-footer at the first-period buzzer that made it 14-5.
Three different times, Skaneateles led by as much as 16 points, only to see Westhill close to 34-22 by halftime, then gain even more hope when Roberts went to the bench with three fouls early in the third quarter.
Again, the Lakers tried to pull away, the lead growing to 48-34. Again, the Warriors struck back, helped by Roberts’ fourth foul as it went on a 12-2 run that stretched into the final period, capped by Joe Meluni’s jumper that made it 50-46, forcing Norris to use a time-out.
They traded baskets until, at 54-50, O’Donnell came up with a critical three-point play. Then Kevin Rice, quiet on the offensive side much of the night, sank a pair of free throws and, with three minutes left, rattled home a 3-pointer that stretched the margin back to double digits, 62-52. Westhill never got close again.
Rice finished with 17 points, 11 of them in the fourth quarter alone. “Kevin is a big-time player,” said Norris. “He rises to the occasion every time.”
O’Donnell also finished with 17 points, while Barron picked up 15 points before fouling out. On Westhill’s side, Kevin McAvoy led with 18 points as Nathan Nigolian got 15 points, Meluni 13 points and Justin Biles 10 points.
Skaneateles had no time to savor the win, for it had to visit Hannibal 24 hours later. But that turned into a 67-27 romp as Barron, with 15 points, led four players in double figures. Roberts had 12 points, with Jimmy Atkinson adding 11 points and Rice getting 10 points.