The subject was defense, and the Wildcats (9-3, 7-1 SLL) pulled straight A's again last night in a 58-47 league win over visiting Otsego (6-6, 5-3).
Tyler Rosenberger led Woodmore with 20 points and 10 rebounds, and guard David Bowen added 16 points for the Wildcats, who have won five straight games (four in the SLL) since losing to second-place Eastwood (7-4, 6-2).
“The Eastwood game was a big turning point,” Rosenberger said. “We've been doing defensive drills every day in practice. We know, if you want to win a championship, it starts at the defensive end. And, the pressure we put on them led to better shots for us at the other end.”
Key in this game was the stranglehold applied by the Wildcats with an aggressive half-court defense midway in the game, a span of 8:07 during which Knights failed to score a single point.
Otsego's Damien Montelongo, center, tries to squeeze through Woodmore's David Bowen, left, and Nick Arndt.
After Damien Montelongo (15 points) hit two free throws for Otsego 1:51 before halftime to pull his team within 32-26, Woodmore went on a workmanlike 8-0 run to take a 40-26 edge before the Knights ended their drought on a lay-in from 6-4 forward Jordan Murphy (10 points) with 1:44 left in the third quarter.
Aiding Woodmore's cause were five Knight turnovers in the first 5:25 after halftime.
“Ever since our loss to Eastwood we've taken a whole new look at what we do defensively, and the kids have really improved and gotten after it,” Christie said. “Tyler did a good job on Murphy in the post. And David Bowen, here he is 5-7, and we put him on Montelongo (6-0) and told him to deny him everywhere.
“We wanted to run the break when we had it, but we felt if we made seven or eight passes that they would break down defensively.”
Throughout the game, the 'Cats found success wearing down the Knights with a deliberate half-court tempo which often led to prime shots. During a late first-half stretch, Woodmore went 12 of 17 (71 percent) from the field.
Once the Wildcats had pushed their lead to 16 points (47-31) late in the third quarter, Otsego got no closer than eight, despite hitting five of their nine 3-pointers in the final 8:42. Only sub-par free-throw shooting (7 of 14) by Woodmore in the fourth quarter prevented a larger final margin.
“Offensively, we stood around, and when somebody was in trouble, nobody bailed 'em out. Give Woodmore credit. They were prepared. They knew they had to get up and defend against our drives, and they did a good job of that.”
Woodmore was 23 of 26 from the field, nine of 19 from the line, forced 18 turnovers and committed nine. Otsego was 17 of 39 from the field (nine of 20 on 3-pointers) and four of seven on free throws.