Mar 12, 2011 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
If it’s March, then it must mean that the Westhill boys basketball team is relentlessly making its way toward a state Class B championship.
Trying to repeat its 2010 glory, the Warriors assured itself of a return trip to the state final four in Glens Falls Saturday afternoon at Cicero-North Syracuse High School by performing well on both ends down the stretch to beat Section IV champion Seton Catholic 48-44.
This was the same Binghamton school Westhill beat 12 months ago in this same regional round. But unlike that game, the Warriors didn’t face a halftime deficit, instead negating the Saints’ major inside advantage with tenacious defense and timely outside shooting.
In all, the Warriors made eight 3-pointers, four of them from Kevin McAvoy, who followed up his 34-point eruption the Section III Class B final against Skaneateles by getting 16 points here – none bigger than the two free throws with 15.4 seconds left that put Seton Catholic away.
A bigger surprise was seeing Ryan Conroy step up to match McAvoy with 14 points, one of his highest totals of the season. Three times, Conroy connected on 3-pointers, and it was his basket with 2:51 left that pushed the Warriors’ advantage to 46-42.
Before all this, attention was centered on Seton Catholic’s big front line of 6-10 Bob Garbade and 6-7 Cole Smothers. Together, they were supposed to dominate in the paint and help the Saints gain payback for last year’s regional setback.
Seton Catholic did lead most of the first quarter, but within a short amount of time Westhill’s perimeter defenders, including Conroy, Justin Biles, Nathan Nigolian and Mark McAnaney, began to deny the Saints entry passes inside.
Meanwhile, Conroy’s pair of 3-pointers allowed the Warriors to catch up and, after a Nigolian three-point play early in the second period, Westhill led the rest of the half, expanding the margin to 25-19 when McAnaney connected beyond the arc early in the third quarter.
Yet even as its defense continued to frustrate Seton Catholic, the Warriors could not pull clear through a second half where, once Seton Catholic caught up at 25-25, no one would pull away again.
With less than five minutes left, the Saints inched ahead 42-40 on Tom Torto’s jumper, but Westhill quickly countered with six straight points to move ahead for good, capped by Conroy’s driving lay-up.
Smothers’ jumper made it 46-44, and Seton Catholic got a chance to tie it in the final minute after Nigolian’s 3-pointer went in and out of the net. But John Martin missed a jumper – and McAvoy, after getting fouled, made the free throws that sent Westhill back to the final four.
On Friday night at 8:30 at Glens Falls Civic Center, Westhill faces Burke Catholic (Section IX) in the state Class B semifinals. The winner returns on Saturday night at 9 p.m. to play Charlotte or Potsdam for the state championship.
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