The good news for all of Woodlawn's girls basketball players is that they can still win a state championship. The bad news: They'll have to wait until next year.
The No. 2 Warriors' bid for an unbeaten season and their first state title came to an end yesterday with a 62-38 loss to defending champion Winston Churchill in the state Class 4A title game at UMBC's RAC Arena.
The Bulldogs (24-2) hit seven of their first 11 shots and controlled the boards to run up an early lead that they extended to 17 by late in the third quarter. The Warriors didn't help themselves by missing 17 of 28 free throws, including eight in the first half.
"It's over," Warriors guard Brittney Taylor said of the season. "We had a wonderful season. Going 24-1 is something to be extremely proud of, but that's something that's past. We have to work hard, and next year we're coming to win."
During the awards ceremony, Woodlawn coach DeWayne Burroughs was motivating his team to look toward next season. While the championship plaques were awarded to the Bulldogs, Burroughs provided the commentary.
"I wanted them to take a visual picture," the fourth-year coach said. "I told them, 'Keep that in mind, because that's next year where you're going to be,' and they all agreed."
The Warriors advanced to the state semifinals a year ago, so their victory over Oxon Hill in Friday's semifinal put them one step ahead of last season.
The Bulldogs, who came to the state tournament two years ago with an unbeaten record and lost in the final, had the winning combination of three 6-footers - Catherine Adams (12 points, three rebounds), Chelsea Phillips (12 points, 14 rebounds) and Chloe Evans (three points, nine rebounds) - and an explosive guard - Alis Freeman (17 points).
Early on, the Bulldogs went inside, hitting follow shots and jump shots to build a 17-11 lead. Churchill out-rebounded the Warriors 58-45 in the game, and often got two or three chances while limiting Woodlawn to one.
The Warriors managed just one second-chance basket in the game, which hurt because their shots were not falling. They shot 19.7 percent from the field, and three-point ace Tiara Wildy could not find her stroke, hitting 1 of 11 attempts.
Defensive rebounds were a problem, too.
"We didn't box out enough," said 5-11 Woodlawn forward Ronda Shelley, who had 10 points and 14 rebounds. "We couldn't get the rebounds, so we weren't getting the fast breaks."
After halftime, the Bulldogs ran their lead to 35-17 on Phillips' pull-up 15-footer with 6:48 to go in the third quarter. Then the Warriors made a run.
Candice Britton sparked a 9-0 spurt with a steal and a short jumper. Taylor, who scored 13 points, hit a layup and free throw to pull Woodlawn within 35-26 with 3:44 left in the quarter. The Bulldogs didn't hit another field goal the rest of the quarter, but they kept their distance by making eight of 10 free throws, ending the quarter with a 43-30 lead.
"We had our 13-point cushion and we decided to fall back on that," Phillips said of the Bulldogs' third-quarter struggle. "They came out of the locker room on fire. We knew they could make a comeback, which they showed in the Oxon Hill game."
The Warriors were able to rally from three points down with 13 seconds left to beat Oxon Hill, 54-50. But they couldn't manage an encore as Freeman, a 5-7 guard headed for Towson University, took over the final quarter, scoring 11 points in a 14-2 run that secured the Bulldogs' repeat.
W-Heard 3, Wildy 5, Britton 6, Taylor 13, Shelley 10, Carr 1. Totals 13 11-28 38. C-Freeman 17, Bernstein 1, Evans 3, Adams 12, Hatten 10, Heliotis 5, Phillips 12, Grossman 2. Totals 22 16-30 62. Half: C, 30-17.