Two weeks ago Woodland’s boys basketball team snapped a losing streak that covered all or part of four seasons. On Monday they almost made it two wins in a row.
Jackson Lovvorn’s contested three-point attempt at the buzzer bounced off the back iron, and Wadley held on for a 54-51 win Monday in Wadley’s season opener. Had Woodland been able to pull out the win it would have given the Bobcats two straight victories after they went winless in both of the past two seasons.
Woodland’s 50-47 win over Victory Christian on November 22 ended a 37-game losing streak that started with the final game of the 2016-17 season and continued through a season-opening loss to Faith Christian this year.
Ending that losing streak is a meaningful step for new head coach Justin Decker as he works to rebuild the Woodland program around some talented young players. Decker has been Woodland’s JV coach the past two seasons, so his graduation to the varsity coincides with that of many of his players.
“These boys have been coming up through JV with me. They’ve been working hard, and we’re going to keep working hard, and it’s going to be their time before long,” Decker said.
Their time was almost Monday night. The Bobcats were aggressive and poised throughout a back-and-forth contest. Woodland led by as much as five points in the first quarter but found themselves trailing 37-27 after Wadley’s Isacc Minnifield hit a shot with 5:21 to play in the third quarter.
But Woodland answered with a 15-2 run that extended to the opening minutes of the fourth quarter and took a 42-39 lead with 6:15 left in the game.
Wadley’s Calon Cottle came up big in the closing minutes however, and was a key factor in snuffing out Woodland’s upset bid. Cottle scored eight of his 14 points in the final 4:20 of the game. That surge was punctuated by a Jonathan Poole 3-pointer that allowed Wadley to build a 52-46 lead with two minutes to play.
Cottle’s final bucket gave Wadley a 54-51 advantage with 29 seconds to go. Woodland called a pair of timeouts to preserve its final possession, but the Bobcats never got a clean look at a potential tying 3-pointer until Lovvorn’s last-second heave.
The loss sullied a huge night from Woodland guard Brock Edwards, who finished with 12 points, eight rebounds and six assists while playing nearly the entire game.
Wadley’s Elijah Beverly matched Cottle’s 14 points and added a team-best eight rebounds, while Poole chipped in with 12 points and eight boards and Lakevian O’Neal added 10 points.
Jacob Champion led Woodland with 14 points and nine rebounds, and Lovvorn finished with 10 points for the Bobcats.
“Tonight’s the first time I’ve actually seen movement on offense,” Decker said. “I was proud of them. It’s not the outcome we wanted tonight, but it was a heck of a game. The best offensive movement we’ve had all season, and we’re going to keep building off that.”
As for Wadley, Beverly and Poole are the only returning experienced players, while Cottle, Minnifield and O’Neal were getting their first taste of varsity basketball. So head coach Terrell Zachery expected a little bit of a rough start.
“We’ve got some young guys and a lot of turnover, so I kind of expected that,” Zachery said. “I think we’ll be pretty good this year, but we’ve got a lot of work to do. It’s the first game so there’s definitely a lot of mistakes that we can correct, and we’ll move forward from there.”
A critical third-quarter stretch turned a back-and-forth contest into a one-sided affair, and Woodland’s girls continued their perfect start to the season with a 64-51 win over Wadley.
Wadley went toe-to-toe with the Lady Bobcats for the entire first half as the teams entered the break with Woodland ahead 34-30. But Woodland’s full-court press forced a series of turnovers at the start of the third quarter and sparked an extended 18-5 run that put the game out of reach for Wadley.
The Woodland lead got as high as 21 points in the fourth quarter before Wadley made the score a bit closer against Woodland’s subs.
It was a balanced scoring effort for Woodland, which saw eight players score at least six points. Leah Williamson and Shannon Moore led the way with 11 points apiece, while Jaeden Herring added eight points, eight rebounds and six assists and was the main culprit of the game-changing turnover flurry in the third quarter.
Wadley’s Madison Gilliland led all scorers with 24 points, and she added eight rebounds. Katie Overton contributed 12 points to the Wadley scoring effort.
Woodland will return to action Friday at Faith Christian, while Wadley will host RCHS next Monday.