Lakers turn back Westhill, tighten grip on first place

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.

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