The Wildcats ran their record to a dozen wins against no losses and, more importantly, earned their second consecutive — and third in four years — Rome News-Tribune Holiday Festival title by putting down a determined group of Model Blue Devils, 75-69, in overtime of the tournament finals played at The Forum in downtown Rome.
With Woodland ahead by two points early in the extra period, Xavier Niblet buried two 3-pointers to extend the Wildcats’ lead to 69-63. Niblet went on to add a pair of free throws as his team claimed the tournament trophy and its second win over Model this month.
Two players fouled out down the stretch for Woodland, Corey Tobin and Chandler Royal, but the Wildcats managed to get things done.
Woodland established itself at the start of the game, pushing ahead to a 17-11 lead after the first quarter had concluded.
The Blue Devils, however, began a stretch of play where they outscored the Wildcats in the next 16 minutes. Model tallied 17 points in the second quarter and had closed to within three points, 31-28, by halftime.
In the third quarter, the Blue Devils again scored 17 points to take a slight advantage — 45-44 — going into the fourth quarter.
Things remained tight between the two teams, much like an earlier matchup between the two. This time, however, the game would need more than 32 minutes to determine a winner, with the score knotted at 61-all headed into the fifth period.
It was in overtime that Niblet came alive to bury two daggers into the Blue Devils and their title hopes.
Greg Murphy, whose two free throws gave Woodland an early lead in overtime, led the way for the Wildcats with 23 points. Tobin and Brandon Thompson each added 14; and R.J. Williams and Niblet both finished with 11.
Woodland punched its ticket to the championship by defeating Cartersville, 61-53, on Monday night and overwhelming Darlington, 63-28, Wednesday night. Model’s path included victories against Coosa, 77-56, and Rome, 50-39.
Also, Woodland had hosted Model (9-5, 2-1 in Region 7A-AA) on Dec. 3, with the Blue Devils bowing to the Wildcats, 60-55, in a contest won late by the Bartow County school. The Blue Devils led by seven points with 5 minutes to go in that game before the hosts rallied.
The Wildcats have used a tough-as-nails defense to fashion their perfect season thus far, giving up 45 points per contest, the lowest total in their region.
Woodland (12-0, 3-0 in Region 7-AAAA) returns to the hardwood on Thursday, when it hosts Pepperell at 7:30 p.m.