It didn’t take very long for Woodlan to establish their home court domination Friday night.
Before you could blink during the girls game, the Warriors led 13-0. It was that kind of early run that Woodlan really wanted to spur a night that saw both their girls and boys teams qualify for Saturday night’s ACAC Tournament finals where they will both get rematches with tournament favorites Jay County.
Defensively the Warrior girls found the ideal times to smother the Heritage offense and it paid off. They were able to get timely steals and out into transition for baskets that really put the pressure on Heritage. Dakotah Krohn was the leader of the hounding defensively, almost like she knew no other gear. It really turned up her teammates aggression.
Offensively, the Warriors were able to completely change the tempo of the game in the half court. While they could get out in transition, their ability to slow things and make Heritage think on the other end stood out. The Warriors know how to work the post. They were patient on the perimeter, passed up ok shots and gave the post play time to settle. Watching Taylor Kneubuhler seal her defender was magic as she often provided the Warriors with easy looks.
It also helped Woodlan’s constant pressure to be able to rebound as well as they did. Kneubuhler, Ashton Widenhoefer and Olivia Baumert all crashed the offensive boards well in the second quarter as Woodlan expanded their hard to overcome early lead.
Woodlan led 34-11 at halftime of the night’s opening contest.
The second half started and went a lot like the first. On the first play, it was Avah Smith getting the seal inside forcing Heritage to foul her to stop a basket. It didn’t matter, as she just got to the rim on that same possession to continue Woodlan’s interior dominance. Smith really shined in the third quarter using advanced post moves to evade defenders, create space and at the same time find a way to draw fouls to earn her opportunities at extra points. It led to a Woodlan 58-29 win.
Patience was a little different look for the Woodlan boys in their night cap.
The Warriors started out in a zone to try and keep the game from turning into the track meet that it ended up being much of the first half. That isolation allowed the Warriors to sneak ahead but also owned up some three point opportunities for Bluffton that the Tigers certainly cashed in on to keep the game close. Max Stoppenhagen seemed to settle in well at the Bluffton point to keep the Tigers thriving.
That required Woodlan to rethink some things into the second quarter and it allowed them to find their own rhythm in that track meet atmosphere as Alex Miller and Joe Reidy ran the floor well and the Warriors started converting transition baskets.
Into the second half, Woodlan started to separate themselves by applying more pressure defensively. It forced several Bluffton turnovers under the rim. It allowed Woodlan to work the ball in the dribble drive offensively, making quality cuts up the center of the lane and finding success at the rim. Once they did that, Bluffton was forced to ramp up their full court pressure but also opened up the perimeter. When Miller dropped a three in the closing seconds of the third quarter, it gave the Warriors a 47-30 edge going into the fourth.
That cushion ended up being plenty as Woodlan cashed their ticket to finals rematch with Jay County with a 58-43 win.
All in all, it was a fun night of tempo at Woodlan. The Warriors brought some excitement to the ACAC Tournament and left fans wondering if they have enough edge to narrow the gap Saturday when the teams rematch with Jay County.
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