By Paul Hines
Woodlawn didn't score a point in the final quarter against Johnston City, but it didn't matter.
The Cardinals were still able to hang on and win the Sesser-Valier Holiday Tournament championship 44-43 Monday night. It's the fourth straight title for Woodlawn at Sesser. The Cardinals and the host school are the only teams to accomplish the feat in the 33 year history of the event.
“I can't be more happy for these guys,” Woodlawn coach Shane Witzel said. “They've worked awful hard this season, and you always like to see hard work pay off.”
Ross Owens paced the Cardinals offense with 13 points. Jayson Hapeman and Chase Phelps both added eight each.
Luke McCormick and Derek Smith led the Indians with 11 points each.
Woodlawn entered the final quarter with a slender 44-39 edge. The Cardinals proceeded to miss all 10 shots they took in the final period.
“We got a lot of good shots,” Witzel said. “There's different ways that you win games, and we guarded pretty well. And we got the looks that we were wanting there down the stretch and just couldn't get them to go down.”
Johnston City closed the gap to 44-41 when Levi Tanner hit a layup 30 seconds into the final quarter. The deficit shrunk to 44-43 about 90 seconds later.
The two teams didn't score for the final 5:57.
“The idea is to make sure you're up when the horn goes off, and we were up,” Witzel said.
Woodlawn held the ball and it's one-point edge with about two minutes left. The Cardinals passed the ball around, but the Indians were able to steal it with about a minute left in the game.
Johnston City passed the ball around the perimeter, holding for the final shot, while Woodlawn stayed back in its zone defense. With 16.2 seconds left, Johnston City called for time. The Indians' final shot came off the hands of Luke McCormick from 3-point range. The shot missed, and Chase Phelps seized the rebound. He was fouled, and Woodlawn inbounded the ball with less than a second left. A long pass to Hapeman ended the game.
The championship matchup was close throughout. Woodlawn's biggest lead came in the second quarter. The Cardinals extended their advantage to double digits at 27-17 when Owens stole the ball and scored.
Johnston City chipped away and closed the gap to 27-23 at halftime. A bucket from the Indians' Hunter Zeigler made the score 27-25.
The game stayed close until the final minutes.
Woodlawn is 8-1 this season.
“We need to play in these kind of games, and that was important to get to this championship game again and play in this kind of environment,” Witzel said.