For much of this winter, a matchup between Marcellus and Westhill in the Section III Class B boys basketball playoffs was a preposterous notion.
Yet now the Mustangs and Warriors, with the no. 12 and 13 seeds, will meet Friday night in the Class B quarterfinals.
Just getting to this match-up was exciting enough. Westhill needed last-second heroics from freshman Jordan Roland to stun no. 4 seed Cazenovia 45-41, while the Mustangs battled into overtime to take out no. 5 seed Sherburne-Earlville 63-60.
Having lost in overtime, 48-46, to Cazenovia on Jan. 27, Westhill knew it could stay with the Lakers as long as its defense performed well – which it did.
Three different times, the Warriors held Cazenovia without a point for more than five minutes. It helped them erase an early 9-2 deficit, and also allowed Westhill to get rid of the Lakers’ 24-16 edge in the third quarter.
Despite all this, though, the Warriors still trailed, 41-40, with less than 30 seconds left, having turned the ball over on back-to-back possessions. But Cazenovia’s Tanner Whiteman, who led both sides with 17 points, was forced into a bad pass, and with its own turnover, Westhill got the ball back.
After a time-out with 20.5 seconds left, the Warriors worked the ball around the perimeter. Roland, getting open and atoning for his earlier struggles, drained a 3-pointer from the right side with 15 seconds to play to put his team up 43-41.
Now Cazenovia needed to make a play, and appeared to do so, David McEntee flashing open on a drive to the basket with two seconds left. McEntee drove too far, though, and missed the lay-up.
Roland pulled down the rebound, was fouled with 0.9 seconds left, and made the ensuing free throws to clinch it. Of Roland’s 10 points, eight came in the fourth quarter, as Vitty Freeman had nine points, Ryan Conroy eight points and P.J. Gebhardt six points.