For a large portion of Sue Ludwig's 20-year tenure as Westhill girls basketball coach, her Warriors have tangled with South Jefferson atop the Section III Class B ranks - sometimes finding success, other times getting cast aside.
So it only made sense that, to earn Ludwig her 400th career victory, Westhill had to beat an undefeated, top seeded, state no. 2-ranked Spartans squad in Saturday's Class B quarterfinals at Adams - and somehow, the Warriors pulled it off.
Putting together a superb effort from start to finish, Westhill, the no. 8 seed, shocked South Jefferson 56-50, giving Ludwig her milestone and moving closer to its first sectional title since 2003. Overall, her teams have won eight sectional titles, plus a state championship in 1996.
After Westhill had ripped past Clinton 62-28 in last Tuesday's opening round, Ludwig said her team had to play a lot better to even have a chance against South Jefferson. But the Warriors had faced far greater tests in the OHSL Liberty division (like Cazenovia and Jordan-Elbridge) than the Spartans had dealt with in the Frontier League, and that would show here.
Against the Spartans' trademark man-to-man defense, Westhill did the most important thing in the early going - score a lot. Before South Jefferson could settle down, the Warriors had built a 19-10 lead and would stay out in front the rest of the way.
For a time, the Spartans did recover, pulling back within 28-22 by halftime, with everyone expecting a further push in the second half. Instead, Westhill reinforced its margin, outscoring South Jefferson 17-10 in the pivotal third quarter to make it 45-32 with one quarter left.
And the Warriors would hang on, thanks to the balance from its two best players. Senior Ashley Cianfriglia threw in 20 points, despite having just one 3-pointer as she made seven important free throws, many of them late to withstand the Spartans' late comeback.