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Westhampton vs Westhill 3/22/98
CLASS B State Final

Westhampton 56 Westhill 36

Glens Falls - The thrill of victory will drive men into each other's arms and inspire uncontrollable tears. Westhampton boys basketball coach Rich Wrase experienced both emotions yesterday as his season went where none had been previously. The Hurricanes added the crown jewel of a state public schools Class B championship as validation to a great seven-year run for Wrase.
Six straight Suffolk league titles, three county championships and one trip to the state Final Four later, Wrase and the considerable Westhampton faithful finally were rewarded for their longstanding basketball excellence. And the Hurricanes did it with panache, downing defending state champion Syracuse-Westhill (Section III), 56-36, in a clash of unbeatens before 3,711 at the Glens Falls Civic Center. It is Westhampton's first state basketball title.
"I was an Empire State Games coach 10 years ago and we lost the gold-medal game," Wrase said. "I realized then that there are no do-overs. I didn't come up here for do-overs. You may never be in a situation like this again. You have got to go for the gold."
Senior point guard Dale Menendez put forth a golden performance. He was named Class B tournament MVP after scoring 19 points (6-for-8 shooting), grabbing 5 rebounds and adding 4 steals. "We were the underdog and that was good," Menendez said. "We never doubted each other. So we went out and played hard. This is what we've worked for. We have four seniors and we've been working for this for a long time."
The Hurricanes (26-0), who have won 46 of their last 47 games over a two-year stretch, still have to win two more games before they can close the books on a perfect season. They move on to the state Federation Class B Final Four this weekend in Glens Falls where they will face another Long Island program - CHSAA state Class B champ St. Mary's - in a semifinal game Friday.
"It's been a great six-year run," Wrase said. "We've been doing it on the local level."
Wrase has been doing it with defense. All season the Hurricanes fattened up on teams unprepared to deal with their trapping zone defense. Westhill (27-1), which had not faced that defensive scheme all season, practiced for it. Coach Todd Widrick knew it was coming.
"That's the first time we faced the trap," Widrick said. "We were ready for it. We knew they were going to come with it. We got the ball where we wanted it. We just didn't hit the shots we've made all year long."
Westhill never scored more than 10 points in a quarter and shot a nightmarish 25 percent (13-for-53) one game after hitting for 46 percent in an 81-34 demolition of Corning in Saturday's semifinal.
"I told the kids before we came up here that the system got us here. The system works," Wrase said. "If you believe in the system, it will take care of you. We play four different half-court traps with different looks. If the kids play them all hard, it will cause a lot of confusion."
Vince Lombardi would have been proud. After all, Westhampton was a considerable underdog. Westhill had a lot going in its favor heading into yesterday's showdown. It had two key starters back from last sason's state championship run and had won 54 of 55 games over a two-year period.
It also had a player capable of taking over a game at any time in 6-7 senior swingman Scott Ungerer. Ungerer, who has signed with Richmond, never could find his range against the Hurricanes, though. He finished with 10 points (3-for-16 shooting), 9 rebounds and 5 assists.
"It was a scary feeling because the last two games we shot the lights out," Widrick said.
Westhampton, which never trailed, broke the game open with a 9-0 run over a 3:26 span in the third quarter. The Hurricanes went from ahead five to up 38-24 on two foul shots by Menendez with 2:49 left in the quarter. He scored seven straight points, including a big three-pointer during the run.
Fellow senior Jermain Hollman also played big. He had 12 points and eight boards in the win. "This is something," Hollman said, "I'll talk about for the rest of my life."

Westhill: Chowaniec 1-1-4, Adydan 3-0-7, Vosseteig 4-1-9, Ungerer 3-4-10, Cassidy 2-0-5, Weismore 0-1-1. Totals: 13-7-36.
Menendez 6-6-19, Hollman 5-2-12, Ritchie 4-1-9, Sanders 3-4-10, Martin 1-0-2, Liggon 1-0-2, Ford 1-0-2. Totals: 21-13-56.
Three-point goals - Westhill 3 (Chowaniec, Adydan, Cassidy);
Westhampton 1 (Menendez).
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