DeWitt Five points down and with two starters in foul trouble, the Westhill girls basketball team was starting at some of the biggest adversity of its magical season in Wednesday night's Section III Class B-1 semifinal against Bishop Ludden at Jamesville-DeWitt High School.
But the top-seeded Warriors shook it all off and gradually imposed its will on the no. 4 seed Gaelic Knights, prevailing 56-45 to set up a showdown of undefeated teams against South Jefferson in the sectional title game.
It was already a tall task for Westhill to try and beat Ludden for the third time this season, having survived tough tests (by scores of 69-63 and 55-50) in each of the first two encounters in January.
Still, the Warriors led throughout the first half, the margin getting to 19-11 early in the second quarter. Not only did Anna Ross lead the early charge, getting nine of her 15 points in the first half, she again shut down Ludden's top shooter, Kayla Kibling, holding her without a 3-pointer for the second game in a row.
Yet Westhill had to watch as Maggie Tripodi and Kelly Mascari both went to the bench with three fouls late in the half. This allowed Ludden to regroup and close the half on a 12-4 run, pulling even, 23-23, as the two sides went to the break.
It got worse early in the third quarter. A 3-pointer from Lauren Roy and a layup from Nicole Granteed pushed the Gaelic Knights in front, 28-23, and Warriors head coach Sue Ludwig said she was tempted to use a time-out to have her players regroup.
Westhill didn't need it, though. Instead, Ross, Gwen Dougherty and Tripodi ripped off consecutive baskets in a 90-second stretch to start a 14-4 spurt that pushed the Warriors ahead for good.
Not content with that, Westhill opened the fourth quarter with a decisive 10-2 spurt. Sam Peebles, quiet in the early going, had six of those points on her way to 11 points overall, while Dougherty dominated in the paint, getting 14 of her 19 points in the second half, plus 12 rebounds.