Woodland boys basketball coach John Howard was not particularly pleased with his team’s 64-27 victory over Cedartown in the first round of the Rome News-Tribune Holiday Festival Monday, but the Wildcats still advance to face Rome in the second round on Wednesday.
“Even though the outcome was what it was, we didn’t have very good intensity,” Howard said. “Offensively, we missed a lot of easy shots just because we were going through the motions and not concentrating. We have to have a lot more focus going into Wednesday’s game against Rome because they are much improved.”
Cedartown has struggled this season, losing seven games by an average of 30 points per contest.
“[Cedartown is] a little inexperienced right now. They have some good young players, but they’re starting three freshman,” Howard said. “They’re going to be OK in the future, but it’s a little bit of a rebuilding year for them.”
Woodland jumped out to an early lead, facing Cedartown with a nearly 20-point deficit by the end of the first quarter.
“It was maybe 24-6 at the end of the first quarter,” Howard said. “So we were able to get out to an early lead and had an opportunity to work on some of our special offensive situational plays. We got a little bit of work in doing that.”
There also were some strong individual performances in the game as Romello Hicks had 14 points and Qua Stocks had 13. In the end, each Woodland player who got into the game scored for the Wildcats.
“We did a lot less depending on the big fella [Carrod Watson] in this game, which is good,” Howard said. “It was good to have that instead of constantly putting the pressure on his shoulders every game to produce.”
Hicks has been playing particularly well as of late and has scored in double figures the past two games for the Wildcats.
“He is probably our most improved player from this year to last year,” Howard said. “He didn’t play a ton of minutes last year and he really worked in the offseason. We’re very happy to have him.”
Woodland will now move on to play a much improved Rome team Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. at Berry College.
Rome is coming off a victory against the reigning Region 5-AAAAA champs, New Manchester, who beat Woodland by 10 points earlier in the season.
The Wolves also played a close game against Cartersville on Nov. 30.
“That’s going to be a challenge for us,” Howard said. “Hopefully the kids step up for the challenge.”
Young Eagles team growing
According to Excel boys basketball coach David Boyd, Region 6-A has the best basketball teams of any region in the state of Georgia.
Excel has a long way to go before being able to compete with the upper echelon of the region, but the Eagles are currently young and improving rapidly.
After losing to Fellowship Christian by 25 points on Nov. 23, Excel lost by just 12 Saturday to the same team and the game was even closer than the score indicated.
“It was a two- or three-point game with about four minutes to play,” Boyd said of the contest. “They had beaten us badly the first time we played and they’re a veteran team. I think we played really well and we played really hard.”
Excel returns just one player who averaged one point per game a season ago and are relying on three sophomores to start. Darius Thrower has stepped into a scoring role and has averaged roughly 20 points per game so far this season.
Excel is currently 2-7 with wins against Bremen and King’s Ridge.
While the Eagles are young, they are playing some talented and experienced teams in their region.
“The region that we’re playing in is the toughest region regardless of classification,” Boyd said. “We were able to compete and played a close game at Lanier and Fellowship Christian. We just don’t have the experience you need to play these teams.”
Excel has a promising eighth grader on the horizon in Drue Drinnon. Boyd called him, “one of the best eighth graders in the country.” He is currently averaging 26 points per game on Excel’s 4-0 junior varsity team.
“Next year we’ll add Drue, and with Darius as a junior, you’re looking at two guys who could easily average 20 points per game,” Boyd said. “Then you add a couple of the other sophomore starters who will be juniors and you have a chance to be a pretty good team.”
The promising future is encouraging to Excel fans, but first the Eagles will play in the Fannin County Christmas Tournament beginning Friday.