LIVERPOOL — The Westhill boys’ lacrosse team took advantage of miscues by Homer Central and avenged a regular season loss to win the Section 3 Class C championship game 7-6 Wednesday night at Liverpool Stadium.
The Trojans, the top sectional seed and ranked fourth in the state in Class C, turned the ball over in an uncharacteristic manner as the sixth-ranked and third-seeded Warriors prevailed. Homer, which beat Westhill 10-9 on May 3, ends its season at 17-2. Westhill (14-5) moves on the face Section 4 champion Johnson City Saturday at Cicero-North Syracuse beginning at 5:30 p.m. The Wildcats were 20-14 winners over Section 10 champion St. Lawrence Wednesday at Potsdam.
Westhill beat second seed Jamesville-DeWitt 10-9 in overtime last Friday and knocked off the top seed Homer for the sectional title, but “Giant Killer” is not a label Warrior coach Mike Leuze or his assistant Rocky Garafalo will want the team to wear yet.
“I don’t know if I want that title, but the kids played hard,” Leuze said. “They deserved it. They went after ground balls. Everybody stepped up, did their job and knew what their role was. I could not be more proud of the whole group.”
Homer had one lead all night long, and it came two minutes into the game as Vinny Basile got free and fired a shot into the cage. The Trojans had possessions, but just missed on passes or had the Westhill defense dislodge the ball and gain the possession.
Westhill controlled the next face-off and began its patient approach and evened the score with 7:15 left in the quarter as Reilly Sizing converted a pass from Will Delano. With 2:01 to go in the first quarter, the Warriors went ahead 2-1 on a Owen Matukas goal and never trailed again.
“We are a time possession team,” Leuze said. “We work for a good shot. Homer came out a pressed us, which made it tough to run the offense. They did a great job and they are a well-coached team.”
“It was not a great night for us to have a sub-par performance,” Homer coach Tom Cottrell said. “It wasn’t a lack of energy. There was just some poor decision-making in the first half that cost us numerous possessions. We played some great defense, but too much of it in the first half got us into a bit of a hole.”
Homer tied the game at 2-2 with 8:39 left in the first half as Tucker O’Donnell scored his first of three goals on the night Westhill built a 4-2 halftime advantage as Matukas and Will Delano found the mark at the 5:31 and 2:29 marks.
Homer had trouble getting shots off in the first half as Westhill enjoyed a 16-6 edge in shots and a 5-3 advantage in faceoffs.
“Our defense did slow Homer down a bit,” Leuze. “We played the zone well tonight. We did all right with our man defense, but we went to the zone to slow the game down and it worked in our favor.”
Homer came out strong in the third quarter. Basile collected his second and third goals of the game at the 10:27 and 9:07 marks to even the score at 4-4. The Trojans could not get the go-ahead goal before Jack Grooms connected with 4:10 left in the quarter to put Westhill back on top 5-4.
With 42 seconds left in the quarter, O’Donnell scored a man-up goal as the Trojans drew even at 5-5. Homer was positioned to make that fourth quarter push, but it never came.
Westhill got a man-up goal with nine minutes remaining for a 6-5 lead as Delano scored off a pass from Luke McAnaney. With 3:31 left, the Warriors got an insurance goal from Charlie Bolesh for the 7-5 cushion.
The Trojans made things interesting with 2:58 to go as O’Donnell netted a short-handed goal off Dante Yacavone’s second assist of the evening to make it a 7-6 game. Homer had a couple of possessions down the stretch, including one with seven seconds to play, but could not get the tying goal.
“I was proud of how the kids came out in the third quarter,” Cottrell said. “We got the game back to 5-5. We typically finish strong in the fourth quarter, but tonight Westhill finished stronger. Give credit to Westhill. They forced us into some tough spots and bad decisions. Mike and Rocky do a good job with their program.”
Westhill won the statistical battle in shots (28-26), ground balls (25-21 and faceoffs (10-7). Mike Turck made 12 saves in the Homer goal while Liam Felter had five saves for Westhill.
With his three goals and one assist, Basile ended the season with a team high 60 goals and 20 assists for 80 points. He wraps up his career fifth on Homer’s all-time list with 151 goal and 65 assists for 216 points.
Dante Yacavone had 56 goals and 34 points for 90 points this spring. He now shares the top spot in career scoring with Carl Zimmerman (2008-2010) with 267 points. Yacavone had 171 career goals and 96 assists.
Tucker O’Donnell had 33 goals in this with 34 assists for a third-best 67 points for the Trojans. He cracked the top 15 in career scoring with 156 points on 79 goals and 77 assists.
As a team, the Trojan seniors went 34-4 over the past two seasons with back-to-back 17-2 records. For three-year varsity players like Yacavone, Basile, O’Donnell, Lars Roos, Justin Wainwright, Zach Barber, Noah Goddard and Dominick Natale, it is a three-year record of 45-12.
Cottrell reflected on his senior group, which did some remarkable things despite not winning a sectional title.
“The seniors had some great high school careers,” Cottrell said. “I know they are disappointed now, but I hope they do look back one day and realize what they have accomplished. We just let one slip away tonight.”