The City and Woodlawn boys basketball teams matched up earlier in the year at St. Frances, with the Black Knights prevailing, 57-48. In Tuesday night’s Class 3A North Region I semifinal, City got the best of Woodlawn again.
Ahmad Harrison led the way for the Black Knights with 16 points in a 75-58 victory. His focus coming into the game was to play with fire early on to set the tone.
“We knew coming there we had to match their intensity because they are a physical team,” Harrison said. “We know if we can be more physical, we can win because we’re more talented everywhere else on the board.”
Harrison’s teammate Clarence Obiajulu finished with 12 points and scored nine in the fourth quarter. His size and presence in the interior wreaked havoc on Woodlawn’s offense.
“It all starts with practice,” Obiajulu said. “The way we practice — we play the same way. So, every practice is always intense and we just come out ready to have the same intensity every single game we play.”
Though Woodlawn came close at times, they just couldn’t break through. With their season coming to an end and seven seniors set to graduate, coach Bobby Richardson reflected on the year.
“We have a host of seniors that are leaving us and I thought that Kameron Downs, our point guard, just had a rough start today,” Richardson said. “Then everything seemed to be disheveled after that. I thought that Tyray Cooper was pressing a little bit to do more than he normally does and didn’t get a lot of support early in the game and we just tried to battle back in the end.
“Free throws plagued us, but there were times where we didn’t get to the line in the first half, where I thought we should have. We’re going to miss the leadership of seven of our seniors. We’re a heavy senior-laden team.”
Jordan Allen scored 18 points to lead Woodlawn.
City will take on Poly in the 3A North Region I final, the second matchup between the archrivals this season. The Black Knights fell, 77-69, on Feb. 3, but their play against Poly earlier this season is encouraging for City coach Omar Smith, who urged his team to play mistake-free basketball.
“You can’t make mistakes against them [Poly], and it’s easier said than done, but you’ve got to try to slow them down,” Smith said. “Especially from the beginning — they’re starting off the game with high energy. If they catch you off-balance, then most teams aren’t good enough to fight back.
“We’re fortunate enough to fight back and dominate the first game. They got us back, but it’s an uphill battle. They have multiple guys that can do multiple things. That day it just happened to be Brandon Murray to carry them, but some other guys still made some timely shots and plays.”
City (19-2): A. Harrison 16, C. Obiajulu 12, D. Carrington 10, K. Booker 8, X. Johnson 8, C. Cuthre 8, K. Kulu 8, K. Brooks 5
Woodlawn (17-3): J. Allen 18, E. Rice 10, K. Downs 10, J. Wilson 10, T. Cooper 8, D. Riggs 2
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Half: 32-17, City