By Patrick Newell
Sun Sports Editor
BINGHAMTON - In, and then out.
With Norwich’s season hanging in the balance, the final shot attempt of a heretofore unblemished season rattled off both sides of the rim and into a sea of hands as time expired.
And with that, the Purple Tornado’s best season in 20 years came to a close Saturday afternoon at Binghamton University’s Events Center.
Westhill, the state’s number one ranked Class B team and conquerors of NHS a season ago – and nearly a year to the day at that – advanced to a second straight final four edging Norwich, 56-53, in overtime.
The Warriors, now perfect through 23 contests, celebrated at midcourt in what was likely their most difficult test of the season.
“It was everything I expected, and more,” said Westhill coach Kevin King after the game, who guided his club to a Class B state title in 2010. “You want to play teams like Norwich. Those are great players over there and great kids. Even if we lost, these are the types of games you want to play…we got a little lucky at the end.”
Westhill led by six in the first 3 ½ minutes of the game, but found itself on the short side of the scoreboard after the first, second, and third quarters. A spectacular fourth-quarter offensive display by junior guard Jordan Roland helped send the game into overtime, and once in the extra period, the Warriors were one missed free throw away from a perfect quarter.
Westhill made all four of its shot attempts during bonus time, and three of four free throws. Yet, Norwich was still in position to extend the game.
Norwich senior guard Mike Sutton, who finished with 28 points, drove for an uncontested layup to draw his team to 54-53 with 10.3 seconds left in overtime. Before Westhill could inbound the ball, Warriors sophomore Ryan Roland was fouled in his attempt to get open.
Roland played significant minutes off the bench, but missed his only shot attempt of the game, and had his team’s lone misfire in overtime missing the front end of a one-and-one free throw attempt 23 seconds earlier.
It’s unlikely Roland had ever stepped to the foul line in a situation with greater gravitas, but he cooly drained both freebies with neither finding a hint of iron on the way down.
Norwich spurned a timeout call, and inbounded the ball to Sutton, who was halted at the three-point line. Seeing that Sutton was caught in a bit of a pickle, Norwich coach Tom Collier called for a timeout with 4.4 seconds remaining.