Though it might not always manifest itself on the scoreboard, there’s little doubt that the Westhill boys basketball team is rounding into better form and looming as a threat for the Section III Class B playoffs in a couple of weeks’ time.
Still, it had to hurt the Warriors to squander a nine-point lead in the fourth quarter of Friday night’s 48-46 overtime defeat to Cazenovia.
Cazenovia, at 10-3 and seeking its own big win to break out as a sectional contender, did not get rattled when Westhill, using a 15-2 run, took a 36-27 lead midway through the fourth quarter of what, to that point, had been a contest dominated by both defenses.
The Lakers, who make no secret of how it emulates Westhill's man-to-man pressure, had led throughout the first half, the defensive presence so strong that the Warriors felt it even with open looks near the basket, leading to misses of high-percentage shots.
When those shots started to fall, though, the Lakers appeared in trouble - until Tanner Whiteman, sinking a 3-pointer with 4:15 left to make it 36-30, launched the Lakers' rally.
Again, the defense stood out, holding Westhill without a field goal in the last 5:10 of regulation as a series of free throws from Whiteman and Chad Warren closed the gap to 39-36.
Then, with 25 seconds left, Whiteman took a contested 3-pointer from the far left corner - and sank it to forge a 39-39 tie. Westhill could not manage a shot in the ensuing possession as time ran out, leading to overtime.
In the four-minute extra period, Warren's free throws, plus a layup from Whiteman, put the Lakers back in front. Westhill closed to 45-44, but Warren, who finished with 12 points, hit a key basket with 50 seconds left to stretch the margin back to three.