Mar 05, 2011 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
If it’s a big game, then count on Kevin McAvoy to deliver, no matter what the sport.
McAvoy’s pitching carried the baseball Warriors to a state Class B championship last spring, and now he can boast of pushing Westhill’s boys basketball team to a third consecutive Section III title.
Amassing a career-best 34 points, McAvoy led the no. 3 seed Warriors to a 66-50 victory over top seed Skaneateles in Saturday’s Class B title game at Utica Memorial Auditorium.
McAvoy said the effort his team presented from the moment the game tipped off had a lingering effect on Skaneateles throughout the contest.
“We came out with unbelievable intensity,” he said. “They (the Lakers) didn’t know what to do, and we never looked back.”
No matter that Skaneateles had beaten Westhill twice in the regular season – once in December, then again in mid-January. When it counted the most, the Warriors had all the answers.
Senior Nathan Nigolian said it helped his team not to be the odds-on-favorite – unlike 2010, when Westhill rolled through the sectional playoffs on its way to a state championship.
“It made things easier,” said Nigolian. “We had nothing to lose.”
Indeed, from the moment the game tipped off Westhill was quicker to the ball, more aggressive and more intense. Only twice did the Lakers lead – at 6-4 and 8-6 in the middle of the first quarter – and though it was 10-10 at the end of that period, the Warriors had already shown that its trademark man-to-man defense could contain the potent Laker attack.
Then things got worse for Skaneateles when senior forward Pat Roberts picked up his second foul early in the second quarter. Westhill’s defense clamped down further, holding Skaneateles without a field goal for more than four minutes. Meanwhile, McAvoy was carrying Westhill’s attack with 16 first-half points, everything from driving lay-ups to 3-pointers from the corner.
“Kevin can do it all for us,” said Nigolian. “He’s interchangeable – can pass, score and play defense.”
Early in the third quarter (helped by another McAvoy 3-pointer), Westhill had a 36-19 lead, further putting Skaneateles in danger – until Roberts notched six straight points to launch a 14-2 run, quickly getting the Lakers back in the conversation.
Somehow, Westhill kept its cool and restored the margin to 45-34 by quarter’s end, getting a clutch 3-pointer from Nigolian and a jumper from Justin Biles just as the clock ran out.
Nigolian hit another big 3-pointer early in the fourth quarter, but Skaneateles would not fade, cutting the Warriors’ lead to 53-46. But with 2:22 left, McAvoy hit one more 3-pointer that all but sealed it, and he added some late free throws, too.
Biles finished with 12 points, while Nigolian worked his way to 10 points. Though Kevin Rice had 17 points and Roberts added 14 points for Skaneateles, it never could get players like Paul O’Donnell or Brandon Barron fully engaged into the attack, a direct result of the Warriors’ sterling defensive effort.
Now Westhill returns to the state Class B playoffs, to host a regional final next Saturday at Cicero-North Syracuse against Section IV champion Binghamton Seton Catholic. The winner advances to Glens Falls for the state final four – a place the Warriors know well from its 2010 conquest.