SYRACUSE Star power, in the form of players like Jordan Roland and Tyler Reynolds, has lifted the Westhill boys basketball team to a perfect 21-0 mark and the top of the state Class B rankings.
Yet it was a reserve forward, Brian Daily, that burst into the spotlight Friday night as the Warriors turned back Syracuse's Institute of Technology Central, 79-64, in the Section III Class B semifinal at Onondaga Community College's Allyn Hall.
Forced into the game early due to early foul trouble for Dan O'Connell, Daily stayed out there and, with Roland on his way to fouling out, picked up a good part of the offensive slack, pouring in 19 points and also crashing the boards with gusto to fend off a spirited resistance by the Eagles.
Westhill knew that ITC in no way resembled the side it had blasted 90-66 back on Dec. 2. The Eagles had reeled off 11 straight wins, including playoff conquests of Clinton and Cazenovia, in order to get another shot at dethroning the defending sectional champions.
ITC got a lot of what it wanted early. Rensey Chandler notched 10 first-quarter points before going to the bench with two fouls, and the Warriors did not register a point until nearly four minutes had passed.
And even when Roland and Daily helped Westhill erase an early 14-7 deficit, the Eagles caught lightning when, at the end of the opening period, Eric Dickson heaved a 65-foot, one-handed shot that flew close to the Allyn Hall roof, descended and swished through the net, giving ITC a 19-15 edge going to the second quarter.
All told, the Eagles made seven of its 13 attempts beyond the 3-point arc in the first half, but the Warriors did not flinch one bit, steadily taking charge as Roland notched 16 first-half points before picking up his third foul midway through the second quarter.