Liverpool Over the last nine years, much of the reason why the Westhill girls basketball team has not earned a Section III title is because South Jefferson has stood in the way.
And so it was again Tuesday night at Liverpool High School, the Warriors victimized by both its own foul trouble and the splendid effort of the Spartans in a 52-41 defeat.
"Give credit to South Jefferson - they played great defense," said Westhill head coach Sue Ludwig. "They made it tough for us all night."
Many different elements added to the night's anticipation. Both Westhill and South Jefferson arrived at this point with 20-0 records. Both were in the top five of the state Class B rankings.
Also, the Spartans remembered how, a year ago, it got stunned at home by Westhill in the Class B quarterfinals, which just happened to be Ludwig's 400th career win.
So a capacity crowd in the Liverpool gym was eager to see how this latest edition of the Westhill-South Jefferson power struggle would go. Largely due to the work of sophomore Austin Stevens, it went in the Spartans' favor.
Midway through the first quarter, Stevens announced her presence with a 3-pointer. Then, with her team down 13-10 early in the second period, Stevens hit on a runner and a pair of free throws, which put South Jefferson ahead for keeps.
No play, though, was as big as what took place later in that period, with Westhill only trailing 21-19. As the Warriors' own star sophomore, Anna Ross, sped to the basket, Stevens went to the middle, Ross charged into her, and was whistled for a foul.
South Jefferson coach Pat Bassett said that Roberts is an expert at taking charges this season - by his count, 20 - and none of them were bigger than this one. Just like that, Ross, Westhill's best all-around player and strongest defender, had picked up her third foul, and had to miss the rest of the half.