Woodland started play with its most experienced team in years and the improvement by those players this season has given the team its best start in recent memory.
The Lady Wildcats have already notched nine victories, just one shy of its win total from a year ago when it was 10-17 overall, 3-12 in Region 5A-AAAAA at season’s end. The team is 9-5 overall and 5-1 in region play so far this season.
For perspective, Woodland has won more than 10 games overall just one time the past nine seasons. The Wildcats’ region win total has climbed above five only twice in that same time frame.
Head coach Kyle Morgan said the Lady Wildcats haven’t just notched more victories in the first half of the season but have been very much in their games.
“Four of our five losses have come down to last possession(s), so [we] have been competitive all year,” Morgan said. “What we hope to take from the losses is the importance of valuing every possession and doing the little things throughout an entire game.”
This edition of the Wildcats has been more aggressive and creative in its defensive presence, using multiple ways to limit its opponents’ scoring opportunities.
“We have done a good job playing team defense,” Morgan feels, but he quickly adds, “with lots of improvement still possible.”
A lot of players are stepping up defensively for Woodland.
“[Senior] Brooke Hummel leads the team with three steals per game and sets the tone by guarding the other team’s best ball handler,” Morgan said. “We have multiple players averaging at least two steals per game. Marisa Dubose leads the team in charges drawn, blocks as well as defensive boards per game.”
Woodland has been allowing right at 44 points per outing this season so far, slightly lower than last year’s 45 points.
There has been a marked change in the team’s offensive numbers with Woodland scoring an average of 50 points per game through its first 14 games. That number exceeds last year’s 39 points per game average.
“Offensively we try and push the ball up the floor as much as possible and share the ball in an unselfish manner,” Morgan said. “We have five players averaging between 7 and 9 points a game (Marissa Dubose, Katie Harris, Ayrianna Metcalf, Sydney Boyd and Aubri Branch). Six players have led us in scoring.
“Ayrianna Metcalf leads the team in assists and Brooke Hummel leads the team in turnover ratio. Marissa Dubose has the most offensive boards per game.”
The result has been a more competitive Woodland this season.
It’s toughest loss this year has been to perennial power Cartersville, who defeated Woodland 59-43 — a 16-point defeat — in the consolation game of the Rome News-Tribune Holiday Festival. The other losses were by five points (twice), three and one point.
On Jan. 1, 2013, the Lady Wildcats had a 6-8 record with losses of 12, 14, 7, 13, 11, 22, 32 and 10 points.
What’s ahead for Woodland is anybody’s guess. The Lady Wildcats, after all, play in a tough region, one in which a great start but has no guarantee of anything other than the expectations that have been raised can still fall flat.
Morgan said Woodland must stay focused on its goals and continue what it has started.
“As we move forward, we still have the ultimate goal of qualifying for the state tournament,” the coach said. “We have set smaller goals to try and achieve along the way.
“We hope to finish with as high a seed as possible in our sub-region heading into the region tournament. We still have lots of basketball to play with nine more region games and two non-region. Our next three region games will all be on the road, starting this Friday at North Paulding. We hope to continue to get better each day and will rely on our seniors to lead by example as we move forward. We are looking forward to the second half of the season.”