Just a few minutes and a couple of blocks away from each other, the Westhill and Bishop Ludden basketball teams gathered on Friday night, a neighborhood showdown augmented by new and exciting plot lines.
Fittingly, both games were close - and both were won by the Warriors. The Westhill boys prevailed 51-47 at Ludden with a second-half comeback propelled by Nathan Nigolian's hot shooting, while the Westhill girls fended off a furious Gaelic Knights comeback to gain a 52-50 victory at home.
Given their close proximity, Westhill and Bishop Ludden were inevitable rivals - but events in the last year only added to the intensity of it.
First, there was the baseball battles of the spring, where Ludden won twice in the regular season on its way to the top of the state Class B rankings, only to see Westhill prevail in the Section III finals on its way to a second consecutive state championship.
Then events in girls basketball added to the flavor, as before her senior season Ashley Cianfriglia transferred from Ludden to Westhill. Since both teams were already situated in the OHSL Liberty division, it insured that, when this winter, it would have even greater intensity.
Their first encounter took place Friday, and for a half neither side could gain any kind of advantage. Both offenses struggled until the second quarter, when baskets started to fall with more regularity. At the break, Westhill clung to a 24-23 lead.
Cianfriglia helped her new team seize control in the third quarter, hitting on a series of shots to push the Warriors (5-2) to a 47-37 lead. For the n ight, Cianfriglia had 24 points, converting on five of her trademark 3-pointers to account for most of that total. Anna Ross, with 12 points, and Gwen Dougherty, with eight points, offered the main support.