By Brian Paglia
Even as Woodland's eyes are keenly fixed on its promising future, the Lady Wolfpack girls basketball team entered the Region 4-AAA tournament hoping to defy their inconsistent regular season, their No. 7 seed and their reputation. They hoped maybe the vast potential of a young roster might get an early start on blossoming.
With Woodland down 23-19 at halftime to No. 2 seed Rutland, the Lady Wolfpack clung to the never-say-die montra that propelled them to an upset over region leader Maynard Jackson and let them endure myriad struggles in the regular season.
But the difference in Woodland's quarterfinal loss to Rutland in the region tournament Friday might have been symptoms of its youth.
Woodland got possession to start the third quarter. McLaurin drew up an inbounds play, hoping to get a quick score that could swing momentum. Instead, the Lady Wolfpack were called for a double-dribble, and a barrage of turnovers ensued.
"We had an opportunity to win and we started making too many turnovers in the second half," said McLaurin, who figured Woodland had as many as 12 turnovers in the third quarter alone.
In the end, Woodland (9-18) saw its season come to a painful conclusion. But McLaurin said there's no need for closure on this season. The Lady Wolfpack lose just two seniors -- guard Jessica Bass and three-year starting forward Myla Ruffin -- and that keeps McLaurin's thoughts firmly on the future.
"There really is no closure," McLaurin said, "because you're always thinking ahead. You're always thinking, 'We can do this better. We can do that better.'"
Woodland will have just one senior next season in point guard Diamond Sneed, and McLaurin her development will be crucial to the team's make-up. If she can solidify herself as the team's floor leader, McLaurin said it would allow freshman Morgan Jones to move over to shooting guard.
But McLaurin said others will have to continue to progress to elevated Woodland into a state tournament team. Sophomore forward Bendrea Willis is likely to assume Ruffin's place as Woodland's primary post player. Sophomore small forward Jasmine Strozier should continue to be a threat to score on the perimeter. McLaurin hopes sophomore Kristyn Cherry can improve her shooting to complement her defensive skills.
Summer workouts will resume the first week of June. There's talk of Woodland players joining forces to start an AAU team. Which will give the Lady Wolfpack's young core even more time to prepare itself for the next step.
"Those teams that have a lot of seniors that have to rebuild, they kind of go back to square one," McLaurin said.
"We're on square four. Next year, teams have better watch out for us."