After a season of virtual anonymity playing in a Nashville, Tenn., church league, Woodlawn center Emmanuel Adekunle had his "coming out" party in last year's championship game of the Wes Unseld Holiday Tournament, scoring 18 points and dominating inside to help the Warriors capture the title.
Last night, nearly one year to the day, the 6-foot-7 senior had another party of sorts in the tournament semifinals vs. Loyola.
A block party.
Adekunle blocked nine shots -- including eight in the first half -- to go along with his 14 points and 13 rebounds as the sixth-ranked Warriors upended the Dons, 85-63, at Catonsville Community College.
Woodlawn (6-0) advances to today's 1:45 title game against No. 13 Broadneck, a 51-46 winner over No. 14 Mount St. Joseph.
The Bruins, who won the tournament from 1987-90, were beaten by Woodlawn, 55-49, in last year's semifinals.
But the way Woodlawn has dominated in its two tournament games this year, winning by an average of 37 points, this year's job could be even tougher.
"We have two years' experience playing together, and that gives us an advantage," said Woodlawn coach Rod Norris, who recently got his center back from a shoulder injury. "With Emmanuel in there, what a difference."
Adekunle's presence in the paint helped Woodlawn jump out to an early lead, as he swatted away shot after shot.
"You just have to teach some people a lesson over and over again," said Adekunle, an honors student. "They kept on trying to come at me, and I was there to teach them."
The undersized Dons (6-5) got as close as 25-19 early in the second quarter, but never pulled any closer.
"They had too much of everything for us," said Loyola coach Jerry Savage. "We knew they'd be intimidating inside. We just thought we could go out and learn from the experience."
Guard Steve Jackson led Woodlawn with 19 points, and forward Guy Butler added 14. Forward Tim O'Hara paced the Dons with 17.
For Broadneck, the job wasn't as easy.
The Bruins (5-0) trailed Mount St. Joseph 25-20 at halftime. The Gaels sank nine of their first 13 shots and used harassing man-to-man defense.
After halftime, however, the Bruins took over, outscoring the Gaels 21-10 in the third quarter to take the lead. Guard Jason Smith, who scored a game-high 22 points, led the surge with 12.
But St. Joe (6-6) didn't quit.
The Gaels opened the fourth quarter with six straight points to tie the game with 5:21 left.
Down the stretch, though, Broadneck was too much, as guard Jason Smith hit a three-pointer and three foul shots to help the Bruins pull away with eight straight points.
"I was really displeased with how we played in the first half," said Broadneck coach Ken Kazmarek. "In the third quarter, our guys just turned it up a notch."