On Monday, though, Woodland found itself down by double digits against crosstown rival Cartersville in the second round of the Rome News-Tribune Holiday Festival at Berry College.
The Wildcats would not be denied their 10th win of the season as they rallied to a 61-53 victory, keeping alive their hopes of defending their Gold Ball trophy with another tournament title.
"We found a way to win," said Woodland coach Mike Tobin. "We were way more aggressive. ... I think the biggest thing is the 1-2-2 zone. We didn't do a good job of attacking it ... That threw us out of sync; we didn't do a good job [with] that.
"The biggest adjustment we made was we just put somebody at the free throw line."
It helped that the person the Wildcats flashed to the line was forward Greg Murphy, who picked up two fouls within the first two minutes of the game.
"Greg gives us a lot of energy. He's one of our better offensive rebounders," Tobin said.
In fact, the 10th-year Woodland coach pointed to a play completed by Murphy as the one that turned the tide and helped catapult the Wildcats to the victory.
"I really think one of the biggest points [of the game] was the underneath slam [on an inbounds play] that kind of got us going," Tobin said.
The play came with less the four minutes remaining in the third quarter and featured a lob from R.J. Williams to Murphy, who flushed down the dunk with two hands and cut the lead to five, 37-32.
Murphy, who scored eight points in the quarter, later fed Corey Tobin with an assist as Tobin's 3-pointer brought Woodland within three at 39-36.
The Purple Hurricanes answered a few minutes later with a J.R. Davis 3 to push the lead to seven, 43-36, giving themselves a little breathing room. Cartersville entered the fourth quarter with a 44-39 advantage.
The Wildcats managed to trim the lead to two -- 46-44 -- after Murphy scored off the second straight Chandler Royal assist, the later one resulting in a 3-pointer that Murphy converted with 6:37 to play in the game.
Tobin's free throw made it a one-point game before the 5-foot-8 Davis elevated over the 6-foot-5 Xavier Niblet, who drew the assignment of covering the explosive Cartersville guard late in the game.
With the Canes ahead 48-45, Brandon Thompson snagged an offensive rebound and was fouled, knocking down both foul shots to bring the deficit back to one.
The two teams traded turnovers before Niblet's two free throws gave Woodland its first lead of the game at 49-48. It would be the one and only lead change of the game as Cartersville struggled to score down the stretch.
The Canes still had a shot after Davis erased a potential Thompson layup with a chase-down block, but Elijah Windom's pass on the ensuing possession went straight into the arms of Tobin, who flipped it ahead to Thompson as the Wildcats lead went to 51-48.
Woodland was able to make 10 of 12 free throws to put the game away.
Cartersville got within five on a Devin O'Connor 3 -- 56-51 -- and within four on LaTerry Hardy's layup -- 57-53 -- but the Wildcats could not miss from the charity stripe and the Canes' could not regain momentum.
"They came out [and] ... they played really aggressive defense. We might of caught 'em on their heels in the first half, but we just didn't execute as well [in the second half]," Cartersville coach Dennis Godfrey said. "But you gotta give [their] defense credit. ... [We] didn't get any shots to fall and they did."
Godfrey did not seem pleased with the second half disparity in free throws -- 29 of 37 for Woodland, 7 of 11 for Cartersville, he said -- or fouls called but did not pin the defeat on that aspect of the game.
"Good teams find a way to win; referees never beat you," he said. "We had our opportunities and still could have won the basketball game, but they're a good team. ... You have to give them credit. They came out the second half and shut us down."
Though the Canes appeared to wear down late in the ballgame -- scoring just 18 second-half points -- their coach did not point to fatigue as a factor.
"I only played seven [players] so that's a possibility, but I just don't believe you run out of steam. ... I don't see how you can get tired," Godfrey said. "J.R. played the whole game till he fouled out."
Instead, he said, the Wildcats made a good defensive adjustment.
"They made a pretty good move in switching to a taller guy [to guard Davis] because he was eating up this other guard that was guarding him," Godfrey said.
Cartersville had its way at the onset of the game, going up 3-0 on Keith Gamble's 3 and extending the lead to 11-5 after an offensive putback by O'Connor and two free throws from Davis. The Canes led 15-9 at the end of the first quarter following a coast-to-coast, buzzer-beating layup by Hardy.
Halfway through the second quarter, Cartersville led by nine, 24-15, as Windom and Kevan Washington contributed a shot each from downtown. The Canes added to their lead as they headed for the locker room up 35-23.
"They got some great speed on that team, and I really felt like they outhustled us. ... We were just shell-shocked," Mike Tobin said of his team's deer-in-headlight look. "We were just so passive [in] that first half."
Godfrey thought the Wildcats may have been looking past his team early on.
"We played about as good as we could play. I thought we played extremely well in the first half," he said. "I think they were kind of overlooking us ... and then they realized they were in a basketball game and they turned it up a notch defensively, and that made the difference."
Woodland went on to outscore Cartersville 40-18 in the second half, including 22-9 in the fourth quarter.
Murphy led the Wildcats with 20 points while Niblet, 12, and Thompson, 10, also reached double figures in scoring. Davis paced the Canes with 20 points.
Woodland (10-0) advances to the next round Wednesday, where its plays Darlington at 5:30 p.m. for a chance to advance to the tournament finals. The game will be at Georgia Highlands College.
"It's good to see these kids expect to win, but we can't afford to come out not ready to play," Tobin said. "We definitely gotta play four quarters. We gotta play intense the whole game."
As for Cartersville (4-2), its next opponent will be the winner of the Trion-Cedartown game Monday afternoon. The Canes are scheduled to tip off today at 7 p.m. at Berry College.
"We need to come back and win, whether it's pretty, it's ugly, whatever," Godfrey said. "We feel like we took a step backward tonight, so we've got a ways to go."
"Hopefully, if we learn from this [game], the next opportunity that comes up, we'll close it out."