This entire season, it has just been hard to put Woodlan away.
Ask Adams Central. Ask Bishop Dwenger. If there was one girls basketball team in the area that should be considered clutch, it was Woodlan. Down by 14 in the final period or needing a buzzer beater to keep their season alive, Woodlan constantly found ways to win.
Garrett snatched that mantle away on Friday night with Morgan Ostrowski scoring with five seconds to play in a tie game and giving the Railroaders a 46-44 win in the Class 3A Sectional semi final at Concordia Lutheran.
“They have trophies because of that,” Garrett coach Bob Lapadot said of Woodlan’s clutch gene all season. “For our four little sophomores and a freshman to come out here and have the perseverance to do what we said, understand what we wanted to do and to execute it was big.”
Garrett started things fast, jumping out to a 9-0 lead, only stopped by a free throw from Avah Smith. It took Woodlan until 6:23 left in the second quarter to hit their first field of the game when Smith rebounded the ball off a Ostrowski block of Dakotah Krohn and put it back up to close the gap to eight points.
It took until 1:45 left in the first half for Woodlan to get their fist lead at 16-15 on a Gabby Joyce score on the break, but Garrett just bounced back as they did all game long. Following Woodlan’s lead, Garrett scored down low with Abby Weaver before adding a Bailey Kelham basket in transition. That pushed the lead to 19-16, as it stood at halftime, in a lot of ways behind Ostrowski who dominated down low including eight first quarter points.
“Morgan is the key to our team and it has been that way and that is why she is a captain,” Lapadot said. “The fact that she was dominant and wanted the ball. We’ve tried to tell her she can be a dominant post even though she is not huge. And she wanted that ball, she ripped it through and stepped through and I hope it continues to give her more confidence.”
Woodlan used their defensive length to keep things close in the third quarter, just as they had in the second quarter. The Warriors pulled back ahead with 4:05 left in the third quarter when a cross court pass to Addison Bayman allowed her to find Ava Smith point blank under the basket, sealing off her defender and earning a 23-22 lead. But again, Garrett struck back quickly, first going to Ostrowski down low and then Kelham following it up on the fast break on the next possession.
Garrett extended their possessions after that against that long 2-3 zone of Woodlan, trying to lull the Warriors a little to find gaps in the zone.
“Working the ball and hopefully getting them to overcommit somewhere,” Lapadot said of Garrett’s discussions in facing Woodlan’s long armed zone. “We completely changed our zone offense on Wednesday knowing we were going to play them to try and drive those guys down and then they figured it out so we just tried to be more patient and work the ball as much as possible.”
They figured it out in big stretches, with Ostrowski working low and Faith Owen shooting the ball comfortably throughout, including three made three pointers in the second half.
With 4:50 left in the fourth quarter, Kelham knocked down a three pointer right in front of her own bench against a roaring “defense” chant from a deep Woodlan crowd. At the time, if felt like it could be a nail in the coffin, but Woodlan has been the clutch team of the area for a reason. With under three minutes to go, Krohn picked off an inbounds pass for a score that pulled Woodlan within two points again. Then, after Smith blocked Kelham on the defensive end, she scored and converted an and-one on the other end. With 1:13 left, Krohn picked up a steal and score to give Woodlan the 44-43 lead.
But with the Woodlan crowd all on their feet taking up one full side of the Concordia Lutheran gym, the Railroaders scored the final three points of the game. After Owen tied it with a free throw, Garrett got their closing chance on an inbound play under the basket. From there, Ostrowski rose up to receive a pass and was patient in keeping the ball high and putting it in with just under five seconds to play.
Garrett’s Nataley Armstrong deflected the first Woodlan inbound attempt, giving them just 2.5 seconds left to try and get the ball down court; Bayman’s three-quarter shot sailed too high and too hard and that is how Garrett stole that clutch distinction.
“Not many four sophomores and a freshman teams are playing for a championship tomorrow and I am awful proud that we are,” Lapadot said. “Every step we take is just a learning experience.”
Owen led Garrett with 17 points while Ostrowski added 14 in the Railroader win.