The schedule and weather seemed to conspire against Woodland in 2010. Seven of the Wolfpack's first eight games in the new year were on the road, a grueling stretch that included games against No. 1 South Atlanta and county rival Eagle's Landing, and they had come out relatively unscathed but with ground to make up in Region 4-AAA.
Playing at home Friday night for the first time in two weeks, Woodland began what could be a season-defining stretch run with a convincing 64-51 victory over Woodward Academy in a crucial region match-up.
The Wolfpack (13-7, 9-5) atoned for a subpar shooting night by flexing their advantage in size and athleticism under the basket. Woodland took an early 14-3 lead when Darius Tookes flew in for an emphatic putback on a missed jumpshot, and the tone was set for the night.
"That's all we practice all week, dominating the boards," Woodland senior forward Alton Price said. "We came into the game and did what we did in practice."
"We're probably a little bit better athletically than they are," Wolfpack coach David Bice said. "We did a really good job on the boards."
Wolfpack senior guard Elliot Davis scored a game-high 15 points, Terrance Williams added 11 and Tookes contributed 10 despite starting the game on the bench.
Bice said the defense Price and Shawn Robins played on War Eagles junior guard Arlon Harper was critical. They had found out in a 61-55 victory Jan. 5 that Harper was a threat to score.
Price and Robins are oftened assigned to defend opponents' best scorer, and they thoroughly frustrated Harper. He made just one jumpshot, finishing with just 11 points and fouling out with 1:51 left in the game.
"We frustrated him," Bice said. "I think that was the key to the ballgame."
It added up to Woodland's third straight victory, a good start to the final stretch of its season. Of Woodland's final six games, five are at home, which the Wolfpack said gives them a decided advantage down the stretch that continues Tuesday against second-place Spalding.
"It works out pretty good. Most teams when they're at home feel unbeatable," Price said. "When the crowd gets into it, that gets us even more pumped and into it."
"We've got a pretty good stretch at home," Bice said, "and hopefully we'll take advantage of that."
Woodward Academy girls 52, Woodland 44 (OT)
The Lady Wolfpack made the end of regulation against the Lady War Eagles dramatic with a last-second putback by Jasmine Strozier to force overtime, but the extra four minutes weren't as compelling for Woodland.
Woodward Academy took control of overtime to get a Region 4-AAA victory on the road and end Woodland's three-game winning streak.
Woodward Academy opened the game with a 10-3 lead. But the Lady Wolfpack (7-13, 6-9) gradually whittled it down over the final three quarters once others beside Strozier (20 points) and Bendrea Willis (eight points) got involved offensively.
But Woodland couldn't carry that momentum into overtime, committing too many turnovers.