Feb 20, 2013 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Just as it has for the last decade, the Westhill girls basketball team carried championship aspirations into the Section III Class B playoffs, only to see them go unfulfilled again.
This time, the no. 2 seed Warriors were taken out at home by no. 7 seed Utica-Notre Dame, though the 60-40 defeat was as much a reflection of how well the Jugglers played as anything Westhill did wrong.
Besides, the seeds masked the quality of the opposition. The only reason UND, no. 19 in the state Class B rankings, was a no. 7 seed was because it had lost three games in a holiday tournament in Virginia, and twice more when All-State junior star Emily Durr missed time due to an elbow injury.
Durr was quite present on this night, and her first-half offense, combined with a Jugglers defense that constantly made Westhill uncomfortable, would make a big difference.
So would the fact that the Warriors’ top all-around player, junior Anna Ross, would pick up two quick fouls in the first quarter. Even though Westhill didn’t abandon its man-to-man defense, Ross could not be as aggressive as normal, and UND pounced, especially Durr.
Scoring nine points in the first quarter, Durr had the Jugglers up 13-10 before getting six more points as part of a 12-0 run to open the second period. All told, Durr got 17 of her 23 points in the first half, nearly matching Westhill by herself as UND took a 30-19 edge to the break.
Meanwhile, the Warriors faced all kinds of headaches with its attack. UND head coach Mike Plonisch said his team’s intention was to make sure that the duo of Maggie Tripodi and Sam Peebles did not get open outside shots, forcing their teammates to fire away.
“We forced them to do what they didn’t want to do,” said Plonisch.
It worked, as Tripodi managed just a single basket in the first half and was blanked in the third quarter, too. Just as importantly, the Warriors’ defensive attention on Durr led to her teammates getting open looks.
Anari Harris, in particular, helped UND pull away as she had 10 of her 16 points in that period, and the Warriors’ deficit grew as big as 21 (50-29) early in the final period.
The desperate Warriors made one brief surge, as Tripodi finally hit on back-to-back 3-pointers and Ross added three points during an 11-1 run that made it 51-40. But the Jugglers settled down and blanked Westhill over the last 4:24 to ice it as Ross finished with 12 points and Peebles contributed 10 points.
But the night was not a total loss for Westhill. Just after the girls were done, the boys Warriors, also a no. 2 seed in Class B, took to the court, also against Utica-Notre Dame – but this time the hosts prevailed, eliminating the Jugglers 72-57.
Following a first-round playoff bye, Westhill got a UND side that had held off Solvay 52-50 in last Friday’s opening round. And the first half was close here, too, both sides trading baskets, though the Warriors did sneak into a 33-30 lead at the break.
Westhill would get clear, though, in the third quarter, outscoring the Jugglers 20-13, and it kept pulling away in the latter stages despite 19 points apiece from UND teammates Simon Pitman and Kevin Warmack.
Much of this was due to yet another star turn from sophomore sensation Jordan Roland. The Jugglers simply could not stop him, as Roland picked up 31 points, converting 13 field goals and four free throws along the way.
Tyler Reynolds offered ample support, too, as he gained 16 points, while Kevin Karleski contributed nine points and William Billy finished with nine points.
In Sunday’s Class B semifinal at SRC Arena, the Warriors meet its namesakes from Clinton, the no. 3 seed, who needed a basket from Malaquias Carney in the last seconds of overtime to oust Syracuse Academy of Science 66-65 in its quarterfinal game.