It didn't take long for the biggest question on Woodlawn coach Rod Norris' mind to be answered.
After the Warriors' 39-game regular-season winning streak was snapped by No. 3 Dunbar in the final game of the Fuel Fund Classic on Wednesday, Norris wondered how No. 5 Woodlawn would respond to that loss against No. 15 Perry Hall -- the only team with a chance to tie Woodlawn for the Baltimore County 3A-4A championship.
By the end of the opening quarter Norris had his answer as the Warriors used some outstanding defense to build a 12-point first-quarter lead on the way to a 81-70 victory over the Gators to clinch Woodlawn's second consecutive Baltimore County 3A-4A championship.
"Our game against Dunbar [a 61-40 loss] was a great game," said Norris. "But when young kids lose and they're not use to losing, sometimes they get hurt. But this team bounced back pretty good."
The victory raised Woodlawn's overall record to 17-1 and eliminated the Gators with a 14-0 county record that brought Woodlawn its fifth county championship in the past seven seasons.
It was the power inside of 6-foot-7 senior Emmanuel Adekunle, who led all scorers with 25 points on 10-for-13 shooting, and 6-7 junior Guy Butler, who scored 24 that made the Gators' task nearly impossible on this night.
"After the Dunbar game we wanted to come into this game and play real hard," said Adekunle. "That loss helped us to play hard. We weren't going to take anybody for granted."
Perry Hall (10-4), which had lost earlier in the week to Randallstown, built a deep hole for itself in the opening half and never really threatened in the second half.
The championship was especially satisfying for Adekunle and his teammates, who repeated despite an injury-plagued season that limited last year's Baltimore County Player of the Year, Donte Dudley to just two games.
"This one does mean more," Adekunle said. "We suffered through injury problems but still hung in there. And the Dunbar game showed us what we need to do in the regionals."
Matt Banks (18 points) opened the game's scoring with an inside basket for the Gators. But then Butler scored the first seven points for the Warriors, putting his team ahead 7-2 just over two minutes into the game.
Perry Hall cut that early deficit to 7-6 over the next two minutes.
That was when the Warrior defense took over. A steal and a layup by Keion Carpenter, who ran the Warrior offense and chipped in with 14 points, snapped a drought of 2:25 by Woodlawn and sparked three consecutive baskets off of Warriors steals.
"We still can get better," said Norris. "The problem is that if we had had a few more tests like [Dunbar] we might be farther along."