Jan 14, 2011 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Just a few minutes and a couple of blocks away from each other, the Westhill and Bishop Ludden basketball teams gathered on Friday night, a neighborhood showdown augmented by new and exciting plot lines.
Fittingly, both games were close – and both were won by the Warriors. The Westhill boys prevailed 51-47 at Ludden with a second-half comeback propelled by Nathan Nigolian’s hot shooting, while the Westhill girls fended off a furious Gaelic Knights comeback to gain a 52-50 victory at home.
Given their close proximity, Westhill and Bishop Ludden were inevitable rivals – but events in the last year only added to the intensity of it.
First, there was the baseball battles of the spring, where Ludden won twice in the regular season on its way to the top of the state Class B rankings, only to see Westhill prevail in the Section III finals on its way to a second consecutive state championship.
Then events in girls basketball added to the flavor, as before her senior season Ashley Cianfriglia transferred from Ludden to Westhill. Since both teams were already situated in the OHSL Liberty division, it insured that, when this winter, it would have even greater intensity.
Their first encounter took place Friday, and for a half neither side could gain any kind of advantage. Both offenses struggled until the second quarter, when baskets started to fall with more regularity. At the break, Westhill clung to a 24-23 lead.
Cianfriglia helped her new team seize control in the third quarter, hitting on a series of shots to push the Warriors (5-2) to a 47-37 lead. For the n ight, Cianfriglia had 24 points, converting on five of her trademark 3-pointers to account for most of that total. Anna Ross, with 12 points, and Gwen Dougherty, with eight points, offered the main support.
Despite all this, Ludden (3-6) nearly caught up to its one-time star in the fourth quarter, taking advantage of a Westhill slump to move within a basket before its furious rally got stopped. Kayla Kibling led the Gaelic Knights with 16 points, while Natalie Barletta got 13 points. Lauren Roy (seven points) and Nicole Granteed (six points) helped out.
Down the road, Bishop Ludden’s boys were determined to maintain its hold on first place in the OHSL Liberty division, a place to which it returned this season after a nine-year absence. Yet it caught Westhill just as the reigning state Class B champions, with its new-look lineup, were flush with newfound confidence in the wake of its 65-58, come-from-behind win over Bishop Grimes earlier in the week.
In front of its raucous home crowd, the fired-up Gaelic Knights led throughout the first half. Kelly Beaudoin hit on all 10 of his points in the first two periods, allowing Ludden to seize a 26-21 advantage going into the break.
But Westhill made up the ground in the third quarter and took its first lead. Ludden regained that edge, but Nigolian’s jumper just as the period ended pulled his team back even, 35-35, and foreshadowed more heroics in the fourth quarter.
Nigolian was having a great week, having held Bishop Grimes star Mike Stone to 14 points before going to Ludden. Here, he would excel on the offensive side, nearly getting a triple-double with 21 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists.
And 10 of those points came in the fourth quarter, as Westhill, trailing 44-40 midway through the period, roared back again behind a Nigolian 3-pointer and a Justin Biles jumper to grab a 45-44 lead. Not done yet, Nigolian got a key rebound, then raced to the other end for another basket in the waning minutes and, to cap it off, sank four crucial free throws.
The help for Nigolian came from Kevin McAvoy – the winning pitcher in that sectional baseball final seven months ago – who finished with 12 points as Biles got nine points. For Ludden, Corey Hunter, with 12 points, and Dan Kaigler, with 11 points, both hit double figures with Beaudoin as Casey Ganley added six points.