The Westhill boys basketball team won its third state Class B championship in four years Saturday night when it defeated Canton 80-62 in Binghamton. Overall, it's the Warriors' fifth state title.
What the Westhill boys basketball team figured out, quite early in the 2016-17 season,was that it did not need to rely on one or two superstars and that, with several good players put together and competing at a high level, it could accomplish just as much.
That approach has resulted in a third state Class B championship in four years, earned Saturday night at Binghamton’s Floyd L. Maines Veterans Arena when the state no. 1-ranked Warriors topped first-time finalist Canton 80-62 in the state title game.
“There’s no better feeling (than a state title),” said junior guard Sean Dadey, and senior forward Kameren Jackson, named state tournament MVP, echoed those sentiments, calling the state title “extraordinary”.
A first-half string of Westhill baskets created a 26-point margin that, while not sustainable, was plenty to withstand the Section X champion Golden Bears’ inspired second-half comeback and produce the program’s fifth overall state title, and fourth dating back to 2010.
Despite the long distance they had to cover to get from Northern New York to Binghamton, Canton’s students and fans filled the stands and outnumbered the Westhill contingent. But that was the only ledger where the Warriors would get topped.
A season full of impressive victories, achieved with a deep, talented and unselfish rotation that could dominate on both ends, had steeled Westhill for this last examination, one it would ace in short order.
In many ways, the final mirrored the 2014 state title game against Olean in Glens Falls in that it featured a first-half scoring blitz. Only this time, a single player wasn’t doing most of the damage to Canton, as Jordan Roland did on that particular evening.
To be sure, there were standouts, such as Jackson, who piled up 16 of his team-high 22 points in those first two periods, and freshman Zechariah Brown, who poured in nine points, including 3-pointers that began and ended the scoring for the Warriors in the half.
Everyone got involved, though, from Dadey, Braeden Elmer and Antonio Scrimale in the starting five to ace reserves John Geer, who had seven points in the first quarter, and Owen Matukas, who got five points.
“We really shot and moved the ball well,” said Westhill head coach Kevin King. “(Our players) were loose, relaxed and ready to play.”
Jackson and Dadey said they were hyped up all day, and that the energy translated onto the court, peaking in a 16-0 first-quarter surge that covered barely three minutes and put Westhill in control. Even though the Warriors got shut out for the last two-plus minutes of the second period, it still led, 46-25, at halftime.
Canton, who had upset then no. 1-ranked Glens Falls earlier in the state tournament, would not let things get out of hand. With extra energy, the Golden Bears chipped away at the margin throughout the third quarter, and by the end of it was within range, though Westhill still led 57-45.
Twice in the fourth quarter, Canton got within 10, but just when it was needed, the Warriors’ collective efforts emerged again Four baskets, two of them 3-pointers, from four different players – Dadey, Matukas, Geer and Scrimale – was followed by another trey from Matukas that made it 70-52 and put it out of Canton’s reach.
Ultimately, Dadey produced 15 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds, not that far from a triple-double. Matukas had 15 points, four rebounds and five assists, while Geer got 11 points and Brown added seven rebounds, matching Jackson’s total.
With 1:19 to play and Canton put away, Jackson, Elmer and Scrimale, who were in the starting five from the season’s outset, left the game together, hugged by their teammates. Then Dadey and Matukas exited a few seconds later.
Together, they had brought Westhill back to the top, and could get one more prize at Glens Falls Civic Center this weekend as the Warriors participate in the State Federation Tournament of Champions, facing Dwight (New York State Association of Independent Schools) in Friday’s semifinal at 9 a.m. The winner goes to Saturday’s final at 5 p.m. against Fannie Lou Hamer (New York City PSAL) or LaSalle (Catholic High School Athletic Association).