By PAUL HINES
Woodlawn’s stranglehold on the Sesser-Valier Holiday Tournament continued Saturday night.
The Cardinals knocked off Goreville 65-56 to win their third straight title.
“We had to pull through and really work as a team. It doesn’t come easy,” Woodlawn’s Gabe Owens said. “We’re really fortunate to have three good years in a row and get three titles.”
Owens led the Cardinals with 19 points and hit 12 of his 14 fourth-quarter free throws. Jayson Hapeman added 16 points.
Goreville never held the lead in the game but made a run late in the third quarter to keep it close until the final minute.
Hapeman and Kris Harlow paced the Woodlawn offense early. The two combined for 12 of Woodlawn’s 16 first-quarter points. The early offensive helped the Cardinals take a 16-8 lead into the second quarter. Woodlawn built a double-digit lead before Goreville tightened the game to 29-21 entering the half.
Woodlawn re-established its double-digit cushion in the third quarter and was up 40-29 before Goreville closed with a 9-0 run. Kyefer Cavins ended the quarter with an putback to make the score 41-38.
“We had talked about that beforehand that they were going to go on some runs, and we need to withstand all that emotion that they play with,” Woodlawn coach Shane Witzel said. “When things are really riding good, they get on some big momentum swings but it’s hard to sustain that.”
Chase Phelps helped the Cardinals rebuild its lead at the opening of the final quarter. He hit a free throw and converted a bucket after a Hapeman steal to put Woodlawn up 44-38. Owens and Ty Coleman followed with a trio of free throws to push the advantage to 47-38. Goreville got as close as 51-46 with 90 seconds left in the game but was forced to continually foul and stop the clock. Woodlawn hit 20 of its 26 attempts at the line in the final quarter.
“We practice it a lot, no doubt, it’s just taking it from practice to the game is a big thing,” Harlow said.
A total of 50 fouls were called during the course of the game, and the two team combined to shoot 61 free throws.
Owens and Harlow were both named to the all-tournament team.