Less than an inch of space separated the Westhill boys basketball team from having to endure a second overtime in Saturday's Class B regional final against Norwich at Binghamton University's Events Center.
But Zan Stewart's possible tying 3-pointer rattled in and out, and the grateful -and relieved - Warriors held on to beat the Purple Tornado 56-53 to earn a return trip to the state final four.
Westhill will face state no. 2-ranked Ogdensburg Free Academy (Section X) Friday night at 8:30 at Glens Falls Civic Center in the state Class B semifinal, with the winner advancing to the championship game against Olean (Section VI) or Woodlands (Section I) the following night at 9 p.m.
Just getting there required another big effort from junior guard Jordan Roland, who overcame long stretches without a basket to score 18 of his 24 points in the fourth quarter and overtime, including a critical 3-pointer on the baseline with a minute left in the extra period
"We just had to make plays and keep our composure," said Roland. "We knew that we were the better team."
Westhill and Norwich both carried undefeated marks into the game – the Warriors at 22-0, the Purple Tornado at 20-0. They also shared a history, having met in the same regional round a year ago at SRC Arena, Westhill nearly squandering a double-digit lead before hanging on to win 59-58.
Here, no one would get close to a double-digit advantage. With a tight man-to-man defense, the Purple Tornado centered its efforts on denying the ball to both Roland and Tyler Reynolds, and neither could convert a field goal in a tightly-played first-quarter.
Norwich had its own slow start, but thanks to back-to-back 3-pointers from Michael Sutton in the last minute of the period, it grabbed a 14-10 lead and was getting just the pace it wanted against a Westhill side that wanted to go faster.