Westhill girls stopped just short of sectional title

Utica-Notre Dame defends title, beats Warriors 46-39

— What the Westhill girls basketball team lacked, in terms of its ability to convert shots, it made up for with an all-out effort that nearly brought down Utica-Notre Dame in Friday night's Section III Class B final at the Carrier Dome.

But that effort did not prove enough as the Jugglers, led by Emily Durr and Jaclyn Hajec, overcame the Warriors’ gritty performance to prevail by a score of 46-39 and repeat as sectional champions.

"We were ready, we competed, and our defense was pretty good," said Westhill coach Sue Ludwig. "We just had a lot of missed opportunities."

Much of the game's attention involved the pair of Division I talents on either side - Pennsylvania-bound Anna Ross for Westhill, Iowa State-bound Durr for UND.

To the Warriors, though, something else was on the mind - namely, payback for last year's sectional quarterfinals, when the Jugglers walked into Westhill's gym and rolled to a 60-40 victory on its way to the championship.

Also, there was that small matter of the Warriors trying to end an 11-year sectional title drought. UND, the state's no. 3-ranked team, had blown through the early portions of the sectional tournament, smashing Holland Patent, Skaneateles and Sherburne-Earlville in their three playoff games by an average margin of more than 32 points.

Westhill got the start it wanted, as UND was cold from the field and Ross hit her team's first nine points on everything from a driving lay-up to a 3-pointer. That, plus a basket from Sam Peebles and a 3-pointer from Delaney Martin, gave the Warriors a 14-11 edge.

The Jugglers found itself unable to get many rebounds and turned the ball over in the face of Westhill's defensive pressure throughout the first half. Yet the Warriors could not take full advantage of it, for after UND switched from man-to-man to zone for its defense, Westhill was forced into more outside shots, and nothing would fall.

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