Coming into last Wednesday’s area tournament elimination game between Wadley and Woodland, both teams had reason to believe they would be able to end the other team’s season.
For Woodland, it was the confidence of knowing they had beaten Wadley twice in the regular season, including a 14-point win in Woodland back on January 7.
For Wadley, it was the fact that the Lady Bulldogs came into the tournament on one of the hottest stretches in recent memory, winners of six of their previous seven games, including a victory over area frontrunner Talladega County Central, which was ranked No. 3 in the state at the time.
“I don’t feel like anybody in this area outworked us,” said Wadley head coach Jerrell Burns. “It didn’t show last year. This year it started to show late. I was skeptical about it, but they pulled me to the side and said, ‘Coach, we trust you.’ And ever since then we’ve been hot.”
Woodland appeared relaxed and confident during pre-game warm-ups, and they played like it in the early going. Leah Williamson was red hot, things were clicking on both ends of the floor for the Lady Bobcats, and they found themselves with a comfortable 32-21 advantage after Williamson’s 13th point with 2:22 left to go in the first half.
But shortly thereafter, Wadley coach Jerrell Burns switched up his defense and put Celest Angel on Williamson instead of Cailin Birdsong, in a box-and-one to try to contain the Lady Bobcats’ best scorer.
The move worked, as Williamson never scored again, and Wadley began crawling back into the game.
The Bulldogs closed the half on a quick 8-2 run to make it a five-point contest going into the locker room.
At halftime Burns made a point to remind his team of their underdog status.
“If you go by what people say, we aren’t supposed to be here,” he told them. “We’re not supposed to be contending, but we’re down five. Let’s go.”
It turns out that five points was, in fact, a manageable deficit, and Wadley was able to overcome it less than four minutes into the third quarter.
A’mya Brown’s bucket with 4:14 to play put Wadley ahead 42-41, and the Bulldogs never trailed again after that.
Not that it was an easy task for Wadley. With Williamson struggling to regain her shot and the Bobcats going cold from outside, they turned to post player Julianna Lovvorn. And she delivered. She scored seven of her eight points in the fourth quarter and her second-effort shot with 6:15 to play cut the Wadley lead to 55-53.
But Wadley quickly regained the upper hand behind Birdsong and Brown, who combined to score 12 of Wadley’s points in a 15-4 run over a stretch of four-plus minutes to put the game out of reach.
Brown was virtually unstoppable all night as she finished with 32 points and 11 rebounds, but it was far from a one-woman show. Shakerriunna Wilkes very nearly posted a triple-double, finishing with 14 points, 14 rebounds and 8 assists.
Those numbers were a reflection of the high quality of play on both sides.
Shannon Moore led Woodland with 15 points, and Jaeden Herring stuffed the stat sheet with 13 points, 9 rebounds and four assists. And Williamson finished with 13 points, 6 rebounds and five assists. Lovvorn grabbed a game-high 15 rebounds for the Lady Bobcats.
Angel did the job defensively and added 10 points and eight rebounds for Wadley.
The loss ended a promising season for Woodland, which finishes with a record of 15-6.
Wadley went on to lose its next two games, falling to Talladega County Central 58-54 in the area championship game Friday, then losing to Loachapoka 60-35 in the sub-regional Monday.
Brown led Wadley with 20 points against TCC. Birdsong set the pace offensively with 12 points against Loachapoka.
Wadley finishes the season with a record of 11-11, marking the most wins for the program since 2014.
Woodland trailed by as many as 16 points in the first half, but the Bobcats got back in it with a huge second quarter before Christian Beam came up big at the end to help send Woodland to a 53-51 upset of top-seeded Winterboro in the area tournament last week.
The win assured Woodland of a spot in the subregional round of the state tournament.
Beam sat for much of the first half with foul trouble, but he hit the go-ahead bucket with about five seconds left, then came up with a steal on Winterboro’s last-ditch final possession to secure the victory.
Calen Houston filled in nicely in the post for Beam and finished with 9 points and 9 rebounds. Jackson Lovvorn led the Bobcats with 19 points, and Beam finished with eight.
TCC 61, Woodland 52
Woodland couldn’t keep the upset magic going in the area championship game as the Bobcats fell to Talladega County Central 61-52.
Beam finished with 18 points and 12 rebounds to pace Woodland in both categories. Lovvorn added 15 points, and Xander Morales had 10.
Woodland took on Loachapoka in the subregional Tuesday night. Results were not available at press time.