Mar 09, 2009 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
One more time, the Westhill boys basketball team found glory at Manley Field House, even if it was a bit ahead of schedule.
Combining a diverse offense with its usual amount of suffocating defense, the Warriors beat Marcellus 56-44 in Friday night’s Section III Class B-1 championship game.
Since this was the last set of sectional finals at Manley before its conversion to a Syracuse University indoor practice facility, the Westhill players knew the game had a bit more meaning than usual.
“We’re not going to be able to come back here again,” Mike McMullen said. “So I’m glad we did it this year.”
What made this title more remarkable was the fact that Westhill has just one senior (Mike Mascari) on its roster. Yet head coach Kevin King said his team’s growth during the season was reflected in the way it played in this final.
“Our kids shared the ball well,” King said. “They’re starting to get our new offense, and we held our poise and didn’t turn the ball over. Also, our defense was terrific.”
Westhill and Marcellus had split their regular-season meetings, each winning at home. When the Warriors won the second meeting Feb. 6, the Mustangs’ top scorer, Will Fiacchi, was out with a leg injury and wasn’t expected back the rest of the season.
But Fiacchi returned, ahead of schedule, in the Mustangs’ B-1 semifinal win over Bishop Grimes on Feb. 27 and was in the starting lineup at Manley, giving Westhill one more key player to worry about.
Given how well they knew each other, it wasn’t surprising that Westhill and Marcellus played a tight first half. The Warriors led most of the way, but never by more than five points as every possession proved to be a battle.
Marcellus appeared to gain momentum when Fiacchi drained a 3-pointer just before halftime to cut Westhill’s lead to 26-24, but that was one of the few times the Mustangs would get an open look from the perimeter.
All night long, the Warriors’ defense focused on keeping Marcellus from open 3-point looks. To a great degree, they succeeded, as McMullen clamped down on Dan Heil, holding him to six points, and Nate Nigolian kept close tabs on Will Nolan, who got just nine points. Neither Heil nor Nolan made a 3-pointer all night.
The Mustangs had just one field goal in the last five-plus minutes of the third quarter, allowing Westhill to pull ahead for good. Mascari’s 3-pointer just before the buzzer made it 39-33 and ignited an 8-0 run that built the margin to 44-33. Marcellus never got closer than eight points again.
Whether it was drives to the basket or a trio of 3-pointers, McMullen proved tough to stop, earning 21 points. Inside, Dan Ross worked his way to 15 points, and Tom Fisher got most of his 10 points in the second half. Fiacchi, despite the pain of his injury, led Marcellus with 18 points.
This leads Westhill to Tuesday’s overall Class B final against two-time defending champion Hannibal at Cicero-North Syracuse High School, with the survivor advancing to Saturday’s regional final at Onondaga Community College against Section IV champion Binghamton Seton Catholic. Hannibal ripped Mount Markham 83-48 to win the sectional B-2 title.