Mar 15, 2014 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
A third state Class B championship for the Westhill boys basketball team is just one victory away.
Again, the result didn’t come easily, but the Warriors, fueled by the junior tandem of Tyler Reynolds and Jordan Roland, got away in the final two minutes to beat Ogdensburg Free Academy 74-67 in Friday night’s state semifinal at Glens Falls Civic Center.
Beaten in this exact same round on this exact same floor a year ago by Babylon, Westhill was in no mood to go through that experience again. But OFA, the state’s no. 2-ranked team with a 23-1 record, was just as determined to thwart the Warriors’ dreams.
Hailing from Section X, OFA had outscored its post-season opponents by an average of 45 points per game and boasted a trio of three 1,000-point scorers, chief among them Kinnon LaRose, who averaged nearly 24 points a night.
But while the Blue Devils had cruised through its sectional and state playoff slate, Westhill was pushed hard, first getting through a narrow Section III final against Utica-Notre Dame, and then surviving overtime to knock off Norwich for the second year in a row.
Steeled by those battles, Westhill eagerly embraced OFA’s desire to set a fast pace, and the two sides traded blows throughout a frantic first quarter. Mostly with Reynolds’ wide variety of shots, the Warriors inched out in front, 24-23, by the end of the period.
Though it slowed down a bit in the second quarter, the exchanges continued, OFA grabbing a 35-30 lead before big baskets from reserves Brian Daily and Mike Burton tied it up, 35-35, and they remained on even terms until halftime, where it stood at 41-41.
Roland and Reynolds pushed Westhill to a 46-41 lead early in the third quarter, but that didn’t last, either, as OFA went back in front, 53-51, late in the period, only to see Reynolds tie it and Daily hit a free throw that gave the Warriors a slim 54-53 edge going to the final period.
Westhill stayed patient in the fourth quarter, answering each time OFA tried to catch up. Still with that one-point lead, 64-63, the Warriors secured a cushion when Reynolds hit a jumper and then, with less than a minute left, converted a lefty hook shot that made it 68-63.
From there, Reynolds and Roland secured the victory by making six consecutive free throws in the homestretch. All told, Reynolds had 27 points, while Roland had 17 points, eight rebounds and three assists.
But they didn’t work alone. Daily delivered 12 points, nine rebounds and four assists, while Ryan Roland managed six points, including a key 3-pointer early in the fourth quarter. Overall, Westhil made exactly 50 percent (27-for-54) of its field goal attempts, plus 12 of 16 free throws.
OFA put four players in double figures, led by Matt Piercey, who had 20 points. But LaRose only managed 10 points as Colin Ross gained 16 points and Jack Manke finished with 12 points.
On Saturday night at 9 p.m., Westhill will face Olean (Section VI) with the state Class B title on the line. The Huskies outlasted Woodlands (Section I) 71-63 in the other state semifinal, led by Sam Eckstrom’s 30 points.