LEO-CEDARVILLE – With the Leo gym vibrating from a near-capacity crowd, and a lead that was seemingly getting as narrow as the rim he was shooting at, Woodlans Greg White walked to the free-throw line and looked over at the bench and delivered a huge grin.
He then delivered a seventh straight win for the Warriors.
White hit the first three throw with 21 seconds remaining, then added another with 9 seconds left to lead Woodlan to a 60-54 victory over Leo and keep the Warriors (10-4, 3-1) in the hunt for an ACAC title.
White led the Warriors, winners of nine of their last 10, by doing a little bit of everything. He had 14 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and three steals.
I just knew I had to calm down and stop thinking about the free throws and just calm down and concentrate, said White, who hit 4 of 8 free throws on a night in which the entire team made just 8 of 20.
Jaylin Bennett added 16 points and eight rebounds, and Kadin Gerig finished with 10 for Woodlan.
The Warriors withstood a third-quarter rally from the Lions (6-6, 2-2), who cut a nine-point deficit to 46-44 entering the final quarter. Woodlan held Leo to 5-of-13 shooting and forced five turnovers that led to six points and kept the Warriors from losing their lead.
We just tried to slow them down because they like to run the floor, White said. We did a good job. We held their shooters and we rebounded. It was really tough. They had a big crowd. We knew we just had to keep up our intensity.
And keep their heads, which Woodlan coach Dave Randall has been witnessing for weeks now.
They dont freak out when things happen, Randall said. The fourth quarter, the roof couldve caved in. We were not making shots, but we dug in and got some stops.
The Warriors matched the Lions high-paced offense in an 83-76 victory Jan. 14, the first of three wins en route to an ACAC tournament championship.
Randall figured the rematch, just 17 days later on the road, would be just as challenging.
The thing Im proud of about my kids, I dont know how many free throws we missed tonight; it felt like a hundred, but we still dug in, he said. You just try to keep their heads clear and say, Dig in and get a stop, dig in and get a stop. We were able to do that.
Leo did not score in the final 2:31, missing its last five shots to drop its third straight game.
I dont know if its tough so much as theyre playing on a high right now, Leo coach Cary Cogell said of facing the Warriors again so soon. Theyre on a roll and their confidence is pretty high. Weve lost some tough games, had some leads and couldnt hold on. So confidence is a big thing in sports, and you can see where theirs is.
The Lions were led by Dylan Barrow with 15 points.