Early in the second quarter on Wednesday, the Woodlawn Warriors figured out who they wanted to be.
"We are a team built on defense and balance," said Warriors coach Bobby Richardson. "We finally decided we wanted to play defense and we made them adjust to us."
The No. 12 Warriors (21-3) turned up the defensive intensity late in the first quarter, using it to rally from an eight-point deficit and defeat host Douglass (20-2), 67-57, in the Class 3A North Section I final.
Wayne Massey led Woodlawn with 18 points, while Shandon Adams paced Douglass with 13.
Woodlawn will host C. Milton Wright, a 73-67 winner over Dundalk, in the regional championship Friday.
Playing in a hot, packed gym, Douglass struck first. The Ducks used seven points and some great rebounding to run out to a 13-5 lead with 2:51 left in the first quarter.
At that point, Woodlawn turned up the defensive intensity. The Warriors began to play tight man-to-man defense and started chipping away at the lead. The Warriors, behind five points from Massey, scored nine of the last 11 points to cut the deficit to one, 15-14, after the first quarter.
After falling behind 20-16 with 5:56 left in the half, the Warriors began to hit their stride. Guard Breon Gannon got hot, hitting a 3-pointer pointer and a two-point field goal wrapped around a David Fulton layup to give Woodlawn a 22-20 lead with 4:43 left in the half. The Warriors then used their defense to build the lead, outscoring Douglass 14-7 to go into the break with a 36-27 lead.
Woodlawn eventually stretched its lead to 45-29, with 4:25 left in the third quarter, but Douglass came roaring back. The Ducks went on an 11-0 run, with nine of the points coming on three 3-pointers by Adams, to cut the margin to 45-40 with 1:40 left in the third.
"Coach called a timeout, and he said we had to adjust and stick with what we know; defense and trusting each other," Massey said. "His timeout settled us down when we needed it the most."
Right after the timeout, Woodlawn got a 3-pointer to run the lead back to eight, at 48-40. The Warriors looked comfortable playing with the lead, though Douglass did cut the deficit to 51-47 late in the third quarter when a technical was assessed against Woodlawn's Juwan Lane for unsportsmanlike conduct.
But the Warriors outscored the Ducks 16-10 in the fourth quarter to put the game away.
"We didn't get every stop," Richardson said, "but we got them when they mattered. We are a very balanced team, and we have to play as a team to win. We did that tonight."
Four Woodlawn players reached double figures Wednesday after five scored 10 or more two nights earlier during the Warriors' upset of No. 1 Poly.
The Warriors might've been seen as a bit of an underdog entering the postseason, but Richardson seemed to like it that way.
"We'll just let them keep making us the underdog," Richardson said. "We don't get the blue-chip recruits, we have to do it with hard work and teamwork. After so many near-misses, maybe this is finally our year."
Class 3A North Sectional I final
Woodlawn 67, Douglass 57
WN – Lane 11, Robinson 4, Rice 11, Massey 18, Marshall 12, Gannon 7, Fulton 4. Totals: 25 12-20 67.
DG – Hollaway 9, Davis 6, Ratchford 11, Moore 3, Turner 2, Jones 1, Atkins 2, Daniels 10, Adams 13. Totals: 23 6-11 57. Half: W, 36-27.