By Brian Paglia
Woodland boys basketball coach David Bice knew his two leading scorers -- seniors Darius Tookes and Elliot Davis -- would return this season, but that didn't mean this team would seamlessly continue to win as it did last season during a 19-11 campaign and state tournament appearance.
But despite the loss of seven seniors, the Wolfpack (7-4) has assimilated several newcomers and sustained the program's early success under Bice.
"It's still a differemt team," Bice said. "Even though we've got a lot of our offense back, we lost seven seniors. It's still a different team and some of these other folks have got to learn how to play their roles. They're getting into the roles that we want them to play."
That's what the Eagle's Landing Christian Christmas Hooptacular tournament was for. Woodland participated in the annual event this past weekend, finishing third after an impressive 62-34 victory over Whitewater on Tuesday.
Tookes and Davis expectedly led the way, combining for 34 points. But perhaps the real value of the weekend for Woodland was in the contributions made by others.
Alton Price has become a presence in the frontcourt as both a rebounder and complimentary scorer. Jeremiah Lemons showcased his comfort orchestrating the Wolfpack's offense. The junior point guard has helped solidify the point guard position for Woodland, which was a big question mark entering the season.
"He's got a chance to be a really good player," Bice said. "He made some unbelievable passes (Tuesday) night. I mean, he's got his head up in transition and is looking for the right things. He's just a very, very coachable kid."
The Hooptacular tournament offered Woodland a chance to discover what this team that blends experience with youth can and cannot do in its quest to reach a second consecutive state tournament in just its third year of existence.
During a 70-42 loss to No. 6-ranked Fayette County on Monday, the Wolfpack put constant pressure on the ball only to get beat to the basket by the Tigers' quicker guards. So Bice told his team to back off a bit against Whitewater to better thwart the Wildcats penetration.
The results were undeniable and Woodland learned something about itself.
"We've been trying to pressure the ball real hard and we've been getting beat on the dribble. Now we're backing off a bit and trying to contest the shot," Bice said.
"I think that worked out better. You find out what your team can do and can't do and that's what these tournaments are for."