East Syracuse Sometimes, in basketball, it boils down to the best player on the court.
So it was Saturday afternoon, when Westhill sophomore Anna Ross made sure that her undefeated, state no. 6-ranked Warriors did not suffer its first blemish of the season at Bishop Grimes, hitting key baskets in the stretch as her team beat the Cobras 50-42.
After waiting out Friday's snowstorm, Westhill and Grimes, who carried a 9-1 record into this key Class B showdown but had not played in nine days, produced an uneven contest on many different levels.
"It wasn't our best effort," said Westhill head coach Sue Ludwig. "But you've got to find ways to win. We've done that all year long."
The Warriors tried to put away things early, bolting to a 17-6 lead late in the first quarter, only to go six minutes without a point before Sam Peebles' 3-pointer midway through the second period.
But the Cobras did not take full advantage of Westhill's drought. Its leading scorer, Amelia Heiselman, only had one basket in the first half, while Kelly Mascari delivered all eight of her points before the break, helping Westhill move in front 25-17.
Still, Grimes charged at the end of the half. Heiselman hit a pair of free throws, and at the buzzer Tina Hoag hit a halfcourt shot, giving the home team momentum that carried over to the third quarter.
Back-to-back baskets from Jordan Vaught briefly put the Cobras in front 26-25, but it was blanked the rest of the period, Westhill responding with a 13-0 spurt as Grimes went more than seven minutes without a point.
Ross, along with Maggie Tripodi, had four points apiece in that spurt, but Grimes didn't go away, eating away at Westhill's margin throughout the fourth quarter.
Here was where Ross proved her worth again. After Heiselman's first 3-pointer of the game cut it to 40-34, Ross made a steal on Grimes' ensuing possession and went in for a lay-up to push the lead back to eight.
Then, when Heiselman's second 3-pointer made it 42-39, Ross answered, making her own 3 with 3:06 left to double the margin to 45-39, and Grimes never got close again.
All told, Ross had 13 of her 17 points in the second half. Peebles had 10 points, with Tripodi adding nine points. To help Heiselman, Hoag and Erannan Shattuck managed eight points apiece.
It doesn't get easier for Westhill, who plays vastly-improved Hannibal on Tuesday before a rematch Thursday night with state Class B no. 12-ranked Bishop Ludden, whom it beat 69-63 on Jan. 3.