SYRACUSE Jordan Roland called it a lucky shot. Difficult, perhaps, but his sleek, high-arcing 10-foot floater appeared to glide over the flailing hands of two Syracuse Academy of Science defenders and into the hoop - just as he planned.
“That was a lucky one, I’ll give you that,” said Roland, behind a smirk. “I just threw it up and I got fouled.”
Roland’s three-point play gave his Westhill boys basketball team a 54-52 lead with 1:20 left in Friday night's battle with the Atoms and shifted the momentum squarely back in the Warriors' favor after it had seemingly slipped away.
And it ultimately proved to be the game-winner. The basket marked the final brush of Roland’s masterpiece as the sophomore guard poured in 31 points - 12 in the fourth quarter - and made nine of 10 free throws to lead the state Class B no. 13-ranked Warriors to a vengeful 55-52 victory.
“For the kids, that’s a great win,” Westhill head coach Kevin King said. “It’s cliché that they did what they had to do to win, but they did.”
SAS clipped Westhill 60-58 on Dec. 14, the team's lone defeat within the OHSL Liberty division this winter. Roland said the Warriors came out with the loss fresh in their memories.
To support Roland, sophomore guard Jeff Lobello scored nine points and senior guard Kevin Karleski added eight points. Atoms guard Chimaka Browne logged a team-high 14 points, but couldn’t convert a lay-up with 40 seconds left that would have pulled the Atoms within one.
Agimi Hamiti made a pair of 3-pointers and finished with 10 points, while 6-foot-4 senior center Ramazan Ozkan chipped in with 11 points.
The Warriors started strong as Roland put them on the board 40 seconds into the game. Karleski made a one-handed, behind-the-back bounce pass from the high post to the cutting Roland, who absorbed contact from Atoms freshman center Jessie Murray and made the basket.