Cazenovia 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.