Westhill knocks out Solvay; Ludden falls to Grimes

After years of getting beat up by its close neighbors to the south, the Solvay boys basketball team had the rare chance to beat Westhill twice in the span of a month - and knock them out of the Section III Class B playoffs, too.

Alas, the Warriors were having none of those plans. Aiming to defend both its sectional and state titles from 2010, the no. 3 seed Warriors toppled the no. 11 seed Bearcats 71-52 in Friday night's Class B quarterfinals.

Just up the road, no. 4 seed Bishop Ludden did not survive the Class B quarterfinal round as no. 5 seed Bishop Grimes, getting an exceptional effort from senior Mike Stone, eliminated the Gaelic Knights 55-49.

No doubt, Westhill had remembered how, three weeks earlier, Solvay had beaten them 59-55 despite 29 points from Nathan Nigolian - mainly because the Bearcats' 6-7 senior center, Dan Aiello, had dominated in the paint with 29 points and 14 rebounds.

The memory of that defeat gave the Warriors extreme motivation - and that, combined with all of its post-season experience, led to a flawless start when it met Solvay again.

Westhill's pressure defense forced turnovers - and conversions on the other end meant that, after one period, the Warriors already owned an 18-7 lead, poised to turn the game into a runaway.

Solvay made sure that, at least for a while, the runaway didn't happen. Aiello again found room inside to convert, working his way to 23 points as, on the perimeter, Deon Knighton-Kearse gained 17 points. Together, they kept Solvay within sight in the game's middle stages and, as the fourth quarter started, Westhill only led 49-43.

The Warriors didn't panic, though, and instead closed out Solvay with an emphatic fourth-quarter effort. Kevin McAvoy, coming off a 24-point performance in the first-round win over Clinton, stayed hot as he hit on several late shots and finished with 25 points this time.

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