Woodland repeats as state champion
BANGOR -- What Woodland couldn´t do with its press, the Dragons did on the boards.
That swarming full-court press was supposed to give Valley trouble in Saturday afternoon´s Class D girls basketball final. Valley did a decent job against the pressure, but Woodland used a rebounding advantage of more than 2-to-1 for a 49-35 victory at Bangor Auditorium.
"We knew coming in that they were pretty much a little bigger across the board than us, and we would have to rebound to even stay with them," Valley coach Gordon Hartwell said.
It was the second consecutive Gold Ball and fifth since 2001 for Woodland, which is moving to Class C next season. The Dragons outrebounded Valley 41-17. The offensive rebounds were 19-4, meaning Woodland had more offensive boards than Valley had total rebounds.
"We were giving them two or three shots after we wore down a little bit," said Hartwell, whose team finished at 17-4. "You can´t give up that many offensive rebounds and go one and done (on offense) time after time after time."
It wasn´t just one person who was sweeping the boards for Woodland (21-0). The Dragons started two players standing 5 foot 8, two at 5-7 and another at 5-5. Woodland was simply relentless in attacking the ball and getting position for rebounds.
Even with Woodland´s advantage on the glass, Valley hung tough and was in the game until the final 90 seconds. Although the Dragons pressed all game, each team finished with 24 turnovers.
As usual, Valley sophomores Cindy Schultz (14 points) and Jocelyn Laweryson (10) provided the bulk of the Valley offense. Schultz drained a 3-pointer for Valley´s first points, and Woodland made sure she never got a good shot from the three-point line again. Schultz and Laweryson combined for eight points in the first half, which ended with Woodland on top 20-14.
In the third quarter, Woodland got the Cavaliers out of their normal flow and into a running game. The Dragons scored 18 points in the quarter, including seven by guard Julia Nicholas (game-high 15 points). Valley committed only four turnovers in the quarter, but also made just 4 of 12 field goal attempts.
"Even when we beat the pressure, we were rushing," Hartwell said. "When we didn´t rush, we got a good look, and we moved the ball around. Their pressure certainly contributed a lot to that."
Woodland also hurt Valley on the boards in the decisive third quarter, with six offensive rebounds leading to six second-chance points.
"The game was called well," Hartwell said, "but they were letting a lot of physical play go -- which, when you´re the smaller team, certainly doesn´t favor you at all. We needed a little tighter game than what it was called."
Valley trailed 38-23 at the end of the third quarter and was still down by 15 with six minutes to go. The Cavaliers made their last charge at that point, with Laweryson sinking a jumper from just inside the 3-point line and Schultz stealing the ball for a layup. After another Woodland turnover, Laweryson dropped in a 3-pointer.
Valley forced turnovers on Woodland´s next three possessions (including two steals by Schultz), but each time, the Cavaliers threw the ball away before taking a shot. Valley got as close as 41-34 when Schultz fed Jessica Brown for a layup, but the Cavaliers had no field goals or rebounds the rest of the way.
Jessica Brown, Kim Brown and starters Katelynn Atwood and Allyssa Vitalone each played their last games for Valley, but Hartwell was already looking ahead after Saturday´s game.
"The season as a whole was a tremendous success," Hartwell said. "I thought my kids rose above where everyone thought they were supposed to be. These girls came together, and they never quit.
"I also think it was a real important thing for our future. The kids we´ve got, now they´ve been on the big stage, and that can only help us down the line."
Matt DiFilippo -- 861-9243