Woodlawn's boys basketball team opened with an uneven 71-50 victory over Valmeyer in the Sesser-Valier Holiday Tournament on Thursday.
“Obviously we didn't play particularly well,” Woodlawn coach Shane Witzel said. “Usually the games after Christmas you don't particularly play well. They're kind of ugly games and sloppy games.”
The Cardinals entered the tournament as three-time defending champions and this season's top seed.
It looked like Woodlawn was headed for a big blowout early. The Cardinals scored the opening 10 points before Valmeyer started to battle back. It took a run late in the opening half before Woodlawn was able to separate from the Pirates.
“We have stretches to where we play at a pretty high level and stretches where we don't,” Witzel said. “We're trying to eliminate those stretch where we don't.”
Woodlawn's Jake Robinson finished with 16 points to lead the Cardinals. Ross Owens and Jayson Hapeman added 15 each.
Down 10-0 early, Valmeyer chipped away at the Cardinals' lead and closed to within 14-11 at the end of the opening quarter. Valmeyer's Ryan Unterseh, who finished with 13, scored to cut the deficit to 16-15 midway through the second quarter. Woodlawn led 25-20 in the final 80 seconds of the half before exploding.
Woodlawn finished the half on a 10-0 run. Jayson Hapeman started the scoring with a bucket to push the lead to 27-20. Blake Wollerman finished the scoring surge with a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give the Cardinals a 35-20 cushion.
“We went really small, but we went really quick and (it) allowed us to pick up full-court man-to-man,” Witzel said.
Woodlawn held the double-digit lead throughout the third quarter, but late in the period Valmeyer cut into the advantage. The Pirates sliced the margin down to 46-38 with less than two minutes left in the third but never got closer. Valmeyer's Zach Williams helped his team throughout the period on offense and ended with 26 points to lead all scorers. Fourteen came in the third.
“Our (defensive) rotations were not good at all,” Witzel said. “That's disappointing because that's stuff that we work on continually.”
After Valmeyer closed the gap to eight, Wollerman stole the ball and scored to push the lead back to 10. Woodlawn pulled away in the final quarter.
Woodlawn is 5-1 this season and faces No. 8 seeded Zeigler-Royalton at 10:30 a.m. today.