Norwich’s boys were dealt their first loss of the basketball season Saturday, 56-53 in overtime by top-ranked Syracuse Westhill in a Class B state quarterfinal at Binghamton University.
Junior guard Jordan Roland’s 12 fourth-quarter points for the Warriors included the final goal of regulation, and he added six in overtime. The lead was Westhill’s for keeps when Brian Daily blew by a defender for a layup and 47-45 advantage with 2:44 left in the extra session.
The final shot, a stunningly free 3-point attempt from Zan Stewart atop the arc, caught iron aplenty before bounding away just ahead of the final horn.
Roland closed with 24 points and senior guard Michael Sutton with 28 for the Purple Tornado, which closed the program’s finest season in two decades with a 20-1 record.
Westhill advances to Glens Falls for a semifinal against Ogdensburg at 8:30 p.m. Friday.
Saturday’s contest, the second of a four-game quarterfinal card in the Events Center, was an intensely played, tight ballgame throughout — as one might anticipate when unbeaten No. 1 faces unbeaten No. 3.
“Think about it. We held them to 43 points in regulation time, I think we’re the only team to do that,” Tornado coach Tom Collier said. Problem was, Norwich mustered a mere two in the closing three minutes of regulation.
Norwich built a pair of five-point leads in the third quarter, the second when Matt Burke drove the lane and finished with a soft left-hander to complete scoring with 16 seconds left. That made it 34-29.
But then Roland, regarded among the finest players in the Syracuse-area this winter, took over for a critical stretch.
He opened fourth-quarter scoring 18 seconds in by converting a 3-pointer from low on the left wing while crashing forward to the wood. Thirty seconds later came another 3 from a tad higher on the same wing. When Roland drove the lane and lofted home an off-handed shorty it was a 37-36 Westhill lead.
This kid, when sufficiently acclimated and full-bore assertive, demonstrates a vast offensive skill set that is not particularly confined to conventional boundaries. Fading this way or that, drifting or leaning or — you name it.
“That’s Jordan Roland, that’s why he’s a great player,” Collier said. “We’ve seen him make shots like that and we expect it.”
“He can do everything,” Norwich senior Storm Cook said. “He can score from outside, dribble to the basket, shoot it left- and right-handed. When he gets going you can’t stop him.”
Ah, but Westhill had equal difficulty against Sutton, who produced 53 percent of his team’s points while adhering to continual instructions to penetrate hard to the rim.
Sutton’s sixth and seventh points of the fourth quarter came virtue of a pull-up jump shot from near the top of the arc to make it a 43-41 Norwich advantage with 2:08 remaining. Roland answered with a drive for two and the tie 21 seconds later for the final points of the quarter.
Westhill’s final crack at regulation points came when Roland streaked around the arc to catch-and-fire while drifting decidedly left. Stewart rebounded and, after a nothing-happening attempt to go the distance with 6-10ths left, overtime was on.
The game was tied for the last time when Norwich’s Burke banged a mid-range baseline jumper off Stewart’s penetrating feed to make it 45-45 with 3:07 left. It was Westhill by 50-46 when Tyler Reynolds buried a 3-pointer — but 50-49 when the Tornado’s Carlos Ithier answered 11 seconds later.
What may have been Roland’s biggest single contribution was delivered with 62 seconds to play on OT, a spot-up and spot-on 3-pointer from in front of the Warriors’ bench for a 53-49 advantage.
Two free throws from Ryan Roland, Jordan’s sophomore brother, brought the game’s final points with 10.3 seconds left. Norwich advanced the ball into the frontcourt and, with nothing developing, took a timeout with 4.4 remaining.
Inbounding from the sideline level with the top of the arc, Sutton found Stewart for a a jump shot that more than threatened to drop for a tie.
“Zan ran his guy down and came off a three-set staggered screen,” Collier said of a play designed by his son, assistant Brian Collier. “It was perfect. Zan had a perfect look, it just didn’t go down.”
Westhill coach Kevin King said: “We didn’t react probably as well as we should have and they ran a great play, which a great coach does. Got a great shooter a wide-open shot — we should probably still be playing.”
Sutton said: “Our coaches set up a great play, it was there and it was pretty much in. It was half-way down.”