The presence of Westhill’s boys basketball team deep into the Section III Class B playoffs is familiar. The fact that Jordan-Elbridge almost joined them there was not.
A night after Westhill ended the upstart run of its neighbors from Marcellus in the sectional quarterfinal round, J-E traveled to Skaneateles and got as close as possible to advancing without doing so.
All of this started Tuesday night as the two-time defending sectional champion Warriors, holding the no. 4 seed, hosted no. 12 seed Marcellus, who had lost in this same gym just eight days earlier, held to just 28 points in that first encounter.
Here, the Mustangs reached that same point total early in the third quarter, part of a tough, all-out effort, but once again Westhill got the best of it, pulling away late to prevail 65-51.
Just to reach this point, Marcellus had to make a long road trip to no. 5 seed Holland Patent on Feb. 15 and survive a 77-72, double-overtime epic, while Westhill had put away Institute of Technology Central 70-54.
It was clear from the outset that the Mustangs were not going to get shut down again as it kept pace through the first quarter. But the Warriors’ defensive pressure took enough of a toll that Marcellus only managed eight points in the second period.
Up 32-24 at the break, Westhill could not put Marcellus away, the game staying within range until, led by senior Zach Brown, the Warriors had a big fourth quarter.
Brown finished with 29 points, hitting on six 3-pointers as Dan Washburn got 15 points. Liam Sanborn (eight points), Charlie Bolesh (seven points) and Ryan Gilmartin (six points) accounted for the rest of Westhill’s offense.
For the Mustangs, who finished its season at 10-10, Matt Kershaw led with 18 points, most of it from five 3-pointers. Connor Rogalia had 13 points, with Jared Sammon adding 12 points, but the rest of the Marcellus roster combined to hit just four field goals.
Then it was Jordan-Elbridge’s turn. Already, the no. 10 seed Eagles had engineered one dramatic sectional win, edging no. 7 seed Solvay 53-51 on Myles Town’s lay-up just before the buzzer.
Now the Eagles faced no. 2 seed Skaneateles, whom it had nearly beat twice in January. The third encounter, with the highest stakes, also was close – and once more, J-E got thwarted in a narrow 55-54 defeat.
As was so often the case this winter, the Eagles put its faith in Jeremiah Sparks, and he was terrific at the outset, accounting for most of J-E’s offense as it bolted out to a 17-10 lead by the end of the first quarter.
Gradually, the Lakers fought back, pulling within one, 26-25, by halftime. And it would stay close the rest of the way, each Skaneateles run met by a J-E reply.
Sparks would produce 32 points, but didn’t get much help until the latter stages, when Tyler Waldron stepped up. Of Waldron’s 11 points, nine of them were free throws.
To hang on, Skaneateles needed sophomore Nate Fouts to put up 22 points, with help from Jack Canty (12 points) and Keif Timmins (10 points) as the Lakers advanced to a sectional semifinal against General Brown, while the Eagles finished 11-9.