Jan 15, 2014 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
At last, the Westhill boys basketball team got the challenge it craved – and Jordan Roland rose up to it.
With a long-range 3-pointer from the top of the key with five seconds left, Roland gave the undefeated, state Class B no. 2-ranked Warriors a dramatic 58-55 victory over 9-1 Cazenovia in their only regular-season encounter Tuesday night at Buckley Gym.
With the score tied 55-55 and 20 seconds to play, the Lakers’ Ross Gerber missed a potential go-ahead shot, and Westhill rebounded. No time-out was taken because the Warriors, in a time-out with 48.9 seconds left before the last Cazenovia possession, had decided what to do in case of a miss.
According to head coach Kevin King, the play was to set a screen and to have Roland roll off it near the foul line. As things unfolded, though, that spot was covered, so Roland had to go further outside, past the 3-point line. Still, Roland’s 22-footer swished, and the Warriors led by three.
“I want to take the big shot, and it felt really good coming out of my hands,” said Roland, who scored 23 of his 30 points in the second half.
Cazenovia still had a chance to force overtime, but another 3-point attempt by Gerber was off the mark at the horn.
In so many ways, this game contrasted what had taken place for Westhill in the first half of the regular season. In starting 9-0, the Warriors had never won a game by less than 15 points and didn’t have to face any kind of late-game pressure.
The Lakers would provide that pressure. Off to its own 9-1 start, Cazenovia proved that it was a worthy challenger to Westhill for both league and Section III honors, largely because it kept fighting back every time the Warriors tried to get away.
Tyler Reynolds, who had not made a 3-pointer since Dec. 20, suddenly made two of them in the game’s opening minutes, helping Westhill establish a lead it would keep throughout the first half.
Despite 13 first-half points, though, Reynolds went to the bench with two fouls during the second quarter. In his absence, the Lakers trimmed a seven-point deficit to three, 25-22, at the break, even though its own point guard, Kevin Hospicker, sat for long stretches with two fouls.
Roland, who had just seven points in the first half, took over in the third quarter, hitting on 11 points in a stretch of less than four minutes as the Warriors extended its lead to 42-29, its biggest margin of the night.
Again, Cazenovia rallied, closing the quarter on an 11-2 run. Ryman Seeley, who had 16 of his 20 points in the second half, led the Laker surge, and his pair of free throws with 4:39 left put his team in front for the first time all night, 49-47.
A tense exchange followed, as Roland’s pair of baskets pulled Westhill even, 53-53, before Reynolds, who finished with 21 points, hit a leaner with 1:41 left that put the Warriors back in front, only to have Seeley answer with a long jumper seconds later to tie it again, 55-55.
Roland missed a possible tie-breaking jumper with a minute left, but moments later he would get another chance – and would not be off the mark.
“It’s good for us to be tested like this,” said Roland.
Seeley was the only Cazenovia player to score in double figures, though Hopsicker, along with reserves Ryan Henderson and Keaton Ackermann, came close as they earned nine points apiece.