Cazenovia Any doubts or questions about the Cazenovia boys basketball team's status as a Section III Class B title contender were answered long before the final buzzer sounded at Buckley Gym Tuesday night.
True, the Lakers lost, 58-55, to Westhill, but it took a superlative second half from Jordan Roland, capped by a 3-pointer with five seconds left, to rescue the state Class B no. 2-ranked Warriors.
And in battling Westhill to the wire, the Lakers showed that its 9-1 start was far from a fluke and that it could play exactly the game it wanted against the defending sectional champions, something that could prove handy if there's a post-season rematch down the road.
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, 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.
A key to Cazenovia's resilience was its zone defense, which never allowed Westhill to establish the quicker tempo that it wanted. Instead of fast breaks, it had to settle for jump shots, and the Lakers controlled the board, rarely allowing any second-chance points.
But then 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.