BY NICHOLAS SULLIVAN
Woodland jumped out to a double-digit lead over Pepperell but needed a late 8-2 run to pull off a 39-33 victory in the consolation round of the Seven Hills Rotary/Rome News-Tribune Christmas Tournament Tuesday at Georgia Highlands College.
“Proud of the kids,” Woodland head coach Kyle Morgan said. “They played hard and smart. Pretty gritty group who have faced adversity early in the season. Hoping best basketball is ahead for this group.”
The Wildcats (2-7) seemed to be in complete control through much of the first half. Four different Woodland players scored in the first quarter, as the team took a commanding 10-1 lead into the second period.
Buckets by Jordan Thompson and Abigail Taylor had the Wildcats out to a 14-3 lead midway through the second. However, Pepperell started to find a rhythm over the final minutes of the first half.
The Dragons (4-7) posted the final five points of the half to pull within 14-8. They then scored two opening four points of the third quarter to narrow the deficit to two.
After finally finding a response, Woodland held a six-point lead following a layup from Ansley Evans. Pepperell went on an 8-0 run before Morgan Bailey’s basket late in the quarter tied the game at 24-apiece entering the final period.
The Dragons held their biggest lead of the game midway through the fourth quarter, as the Wildcats faced a 30-27 deficit. But two free throws each from Morgan Cooper and Jordan Thompson gave Woodland the lead.
With the score even at 31-all and under two minutes remaining, the Wildcats regained control. Lauren Morris scored underneath to break the tie, and following a steal, Taylor converted for a four-point cushion.
Pepperell pulled back within two points, but Thompson countered with a pair of clutch free throws with 16 seconds to go. Morris scored in the waning moments to polish off the much-needed victory.
Thompson scored a game-high 13 points; Evans finished with eight; and Cooper and Morris chipped in six apiece.
Woodland will return to action Saturday at Cartersville.