Mar 16, 2013 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Sixteen minutes of inspired performance pushed the Westhill boys basketball team to the brink of an appearance in the state Class B championship. It was those other 16 minutes, though, that would doom the Warriors to fall short of its ultimate goal.
A disastrous second half by the Warriors, and an incredible performance by Babylon’s Fernando Vazquez, pushed the Panthers past Westhill 67-57 in Friday night’s state Class B semifinal at Glens Falls Civic Center.
For his part, Vazquez had one of the greatest individual performances in Glens Falls annals. He finished with 40 points, keeping Babylon within sight during Westhill’s early surge, and personally leading the Panthers from behind in the latter stages.
So Westhill, a two-time state champion (including 2010), saw its season end in the semifinal round, just as it did in 2011, and what made it more difficult to take was the way things went in the first half.
Even if it was the first time on the big Glens Falls stage for this group of Westhill players, it was quickly apparent that they weren’t rattled by in the early stages – especially sophomores Tyler Reynolds and Jordan Roland, the team’s main offensive sparks throughout the post-season.
Never trailing, Westhill bolted out to an 11-5 edge in the game’s opening minutes, Reynolds notching seven of those points. From there, the Warriors and Panthers traded baskets until the early part of the second quarter.
And it was there that Westhill really started to take over. Four straight free throws from Roland initiated a 9-0 run capped by another of Reynolds’ 3-pointers.
Babylon went cold, missing all kinds of shots, while Westhill was busy making 56.5 percent of its field-goal attempts. Reynolds, by halftime, had 15 points, with Roland getting 13 points in the first two periods, and the Warriors were up 37-24 at the break.
Only the work of the Panthers’ star guard, Fernando Vazquez, kept it within range as he had 15 points in the first half, including a coast-to-coast basket to close the second period that gave the Long Island champions some hope that it could catch up.
Sure enough, early in the third quarter Vazquez stayed hot, his free throws and 3-pointer shrinking the Warriors’ lead to 39-32 and forcing Westhill head coach Kevin King to take a time-out.
Again, like so many previous post-season games, the Warriors allowed a big lead to nearly vanish before regrouping late in the period with a pivotal 3-pointer from Roland that allowed it to go to the final period clinging to a 46-42 lead.
Even that couldn’t stop Vazquez, though. With Babylon trailing 48-44, he drained a 3-pointer, and after the Panthers moved in front for the first time at 49-48, Vazquez connected again from beyond the arc, putting his total at 33 points.
Stunned to find itself trailing, Westhill could not regroup enough. It was still within three, 56-53, thanks to Kevin Karleski’s three-point play midway through the fourth quarter, but the Panthers put up a brief 6-0 run and got clear, making enough free throws in the homestretch to seal it.
Roland finished with 23 points, while Reynolds symbolized the Warriors’ late struggles, managing just two points after the break to finish with 17.
Babylon would go on to make another big second-half comeback in Saturday night’s state Class B championship game against Watervliet (Section II), only to fall in overtime 72-60 to the Cannoneers, who had lost to Bishop Ludden by a single point in the 2012 state final.
Westhill will expect to get back to Glens Falls in 2013-14, especially since three of the starters – Roland, Reynolds and Jeff Lobello – are sophomores, as is Dan O’Connell, and the junior class includes defensive specialist William Billy. Just three seniors graduate, but that includes starters Karleski and Dan Gratien.