SYRACUSE With its most difficult stretch of the season behind them, the Westhill girls basketball team, at 13-0, can start to entertain the notion of an undefeated regular season.
The state Class B no. 5-ranked Warriors were pushed by state no. 11-ranked Bishop Ludden Thursday night, but again responded with a big-time victory, toppling the Gaelic Knights 55-50.
These neighbors had first met Jan. 3, at Ludden, where Westhill started slowly, but still won 69-63 behind a career-best effort from Maggie Tripodi, who finished with 25 points as Anna Ross added 23 points.
Tripodi and Ross would factor into the rematch, in different ways. Tripodi notched five quick points as Westhill, with a 12-2 run late in the first quarter, zoomed into a 14-7 lead.
By the third quarter, the margin was 41-26, with Westhill enjoying some of its best offensive balance of the season. All five starters - Tripodi, Ross, Sam Peebles, Gwen Dougherty and Kelly Mascari - had at least six points, the Warriors confidently moving the ball around and getting open looks.
Just as important was the way Ross played on the defensive side. Assigned to Ludden's leading scorer, Kayla Kibling (who was averaging nearly 15 points per game), the sophomore guard rarely let Kibling touch the ball, as she only managed nine points and one 3-pointer.
Despite all this, and despite three early fouls that sidelined Nicole Granteed for large portions of the first half, Ludden would fight back. It closed the third quarter on a 12-2 run, and were within four, 43-39, early in the final period before Peebles' 3-pointer stretched the margin back to seven.
When the Gaelic Knights closed within 48-44, again the Warriors responded as, with 2:43 left, Tripodi sank a 3-pointer from the corner. She also hit two key free throws down the stretch, finishing with 14 points.