Jan 28, 2012 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Even at 10-3, with twice its win total from a season ago, the Cazenovia boys basketball team still lacked the pressure-filled, attention-grabbing victory that could leap them into contender status.
That changed, though, on Friday night, when the Lakers, down by eight to two-time defending Section III Class B champion Westhill late in regulation, came back and forced overtime, and went on to top the Warriors 48-46.
“I’m pleasantly surprised with how well we are playing,” said Cazenovia head coach Paul Harney. “These kids are excellent athletes, and now they’re becoming better basketball players.”
Good enough, in fact, not to get rattled when Westhill, using a 15-2 run, took a 36-27 lead midway through the fourth quarter of what, to that point, had been a contest dominated by both defenses.
Cazenovia, who makes no secret of how it emulates Westhill’s man-to-man pressure, had led throughout the first half, the defensive presence so strong that the Warriors felt it even with open looks near the basket, leading to misses of high-percentage shots.
When those shots started to fall, though, the Lakers appeared in trouble – until Tanner Whiteman, sinking a 3-pointer with 4:15 left to make it 36-30, launched the Lakers’ rally.
Again, the defense stood out, holding Westhill without a field goal in the last 5:10 of regulation as a series of free throws from Whiteman and Chad Warren closed the gap to 39-36.
Then, with 25 seconds left, Whiteman took a contested 3-pointer from the far left corner – and sank it to forge a 39-39 tie. Westhill could not manage a shot in the ensuing possession as time ran out, leading to overtime.
In the four-minute extra period, Warren’s free throws, plus a layup from Whiteman, put the Lakers back in front. Westhill closed to 45-44, but Warren, who finished with 12 points, hit a key basket with 50 seconds left to stretch the margin back to three.
They traded foul shots until, with four seconds left, Westhill’s Joe Meluni sank two of them to cut the margin to 47-46. Immediately fouled, Kevin Hopsicker made one of his two free throws, and the Warriors’ last desperation attempt fell short.
Whiteman, overall, led both sides with 19 points. Hopsicker matched Warren with 12 points of his own. Ryan Conroy paced Westhill with 14 points as Meluni contributed 10 points.
Back on Tuesday against Bishop Grimes at Buckley Gym, the Lakers slumped at the start and never could fully recover in a 58-46 defeat to the Cobras.
Cazenovia was trying to avenge a 59-54 defeat at Grimes on Dec. 22, but at least in that contest the Lakers got some early points and remained within range.
In the rematch, the Cobras seized control in the first three minutes, mainly due to Gai Ater, who recorded 10 points as the Lakers fell behind 12-0.
For the rest of the game, Cazenovia found itself in a frustrating chase. The Lakers moved within 16-11 late in the first quarter, only to see Grimes stretch it out to double digits before a strong push late in the half made it 29-23 at the break.
David McEntee’s basket early in the third quarter made it 29-25, but once again the Cobras got away, outscoring Cazenovia 17-5 the rest of the period.
The only glimmer of hope came late in the fourth quarter, when Grimes’ Casey Evans fouled out and drew a technical foul. Hopsicker made four straight free throws to slice the margin to 50-40, but it missed on the ensuing possession, and Ater drained a 3-pointer with 2:30 left to seal it.
Whiteman led with 15 points, with Hopsicker adding 13 points, but no other Laker had more than two field goals. Ater paced Grimes with 21 points as forward Jon Carnegie contributed 13 points.
Cazenovia will return home Tuesday night to face Skaneateles before going to Jordan-Elbridge next Friday.
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