Feb 01, 2014 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
A full, loud and raucous crowd at Onondaga Community College’s Allyn Hall, the spectacle of two neighboring powerhouses battling it out, and the early departure of a key player – none of this rattled Jordan Roland or the Westhill boys basketball team one bit.
Instead of throwing away a 12-point second-half lead in Saturday’s showdown with Bishop Ludden, the undefeated, state Class B no. 1-ranked Warriors turned to Roland, and the junior guard delivered in the homestretch to help Westhill beat the Gaelic Knights 62-54.
Roland, who surpassed 1,000 career points earlier in the week in a 78-48 win over Phoenix, finished with 29 points, nine of them in the game’s final three minutes to thwart Ludden’s comeback attempt.
“Jordan wanted to win this game,” said Westhill head coach Kevin King.
Of course, everyone, on both sides, looked forward to this featured attraction of the “Hoops for the Hospital” weekend festival at OCC. Not only was Westhill atop the state Class B ranks, Ludden, too, had spent a month atop the state Class A rankings before a Jan. 24 defeat to Albany Academy.
And the Gaelic Knights badly wanted payback for losing to the Warriors 47-43 in their last encounter on Dec. 27, 2012, which took place in the opening round of Ludden’s own holiday tournament.
Given Westhill’s high-scoring, fast-paced propensity this season, the Gaelic Knights wanted to establish a slower tempo and work it inside to its front-line trio of Dan Kaigler, Jack Rauch and Zach Walser.
Yet Ludden’s defense could do little to contain the Warriors’ duo of Roland and Tyler Reynolds, who combined for 15 points in the first quarter to help Westhill go in front 20-15.
With Kaigler occupied, Rauch flourished in the first half, getting 13 points, and Ludden twice went in front late in the second period before Ryan Roland’s 3-pointer from the corner pushed the Warriors into a 30-29 lead at the break.
What made things worse for Ludden was that Kaigler took an injury to his left eye late in the half. Though he returned in the second half, it would take a while for him to get back into the game’s flow.
Reynolds, shut out in that second period, atoned with eight points early in the third quarter. Sparked by his outburst, Westhill used an 8-0 run to stretch its lead to 48-36.
A key part to this run was the Warriors’ defense, whose man-to-man pressure caused Ludden all kinds of problems. Roland, in particular, hurt the Gaelic Knights with timely steals.
But after Reynolds picked up his fourth foul, Ludden started chipping away, going on an 11-2 run that stretched into the final period, and got even more energy when, with 4:46 left, Reynolds, who had 14 points on the day, fouled out.
Instead of panicking, though, Westhill put the game in Jordan Roland’s hands. He said that his team just needed to slow the game down and play smart, which they did.
With Westhill clinging to a 52-47 lead, Roland hit a contested 3-pointer with 2:48 left, and after a free throw by Kaigler, hit on another basket with 1:13 to play.
“Our guys hung in there,” said King. “We showed a lot of poise and experience.”
Down 57-48, Ludden battled to the end as Kaigler, playing despite his swollen eye, managed a pair of 3-pointers. But Roland hit four consecutive free throws to help the Warriors clinch another win over the Gaelic Knights.
Roland’s backcourt mate, Jeff Lobello, had several key baskets and finished with 10 points. Rauch led Ludden with 17 points, with Kaigler getting 15 points and Walser 11 points, but Ben Hackett, who got his 1,000th point the night before in a 65-43 win over East Syracuse-Minoa, had just eight points.
Before they could meet, Westhill and Ludden had to get through a few preliminary hurdles – and pass a couple of milestones, too.
Hosting Solvay last Monday night, the Warriors rolled to a 79-54 victory. They were tied, 17-17, through one period, but Westhill outscored the Bearcats 46-27 over the course of the next two periods to seize control.
Again, the combination of Roland and Reynolds proved too good, as Roland managed 27 points, six assists, two rebounds and two steals, while Reynolds had 25 points and six rebounds. Each of them made three 3-pointers. Lobello added nine points as, for Solvay, Davis Kippen (13 points), Jon Scutt (12 points) and Cody Pucello (10 points) reached double figures.
Going into Wednesday’s game at Phoenix, Roland needed 19 more points to hit 1,000 for his career, and got them easily as the Warriors, not looking ahead to Ludden, focused on the Firebirds and rolled to a 78-48 victory.
Westhill bolted out to a 46-20 halftime lead as Roland outscored Phoenix all by himself, his series of jumpers pushing his career point total past the 1,000-point milestone.
With that out of the way, the Warriors rolled through the rest of the game, Roland finishing with 30 points, plus three rebounds, three assists and three steals. Reynolds added 11 points, seven rebounds and four assists as five others – Lobello, Mike Burton, William Billy, Ryan Roland and Brian Daily – earned six points apiece.
Ludden, meanwhile, would play less than 24 hours before the Westhill clash, at East Syracuse-Minoa, the team Donnelly coached in the early 1980s before taking over at his alma mater.
But since he had been ejected in the Gaelic Knights’ loss at Albany Academy, Donnelly could not coach, and long-time assistant Pete Ganley took over.
Ganley got to witness Hackett join Roland and Kaigler in the 1,000-point club as the Gaelic Knights defeated the Spartans 65-43, methodically working its way to a 53-28 lead through three quarters to settle matters early. Hackett, with 15 points, led the way as Walser (12 points), Kaigler (11 points) and Rauch (10 points) all hit double figures.
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