SYRACUSE 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.