Senior Night took on a special meaning for the Woodridge girls basketball team Feb. 8 when it hosted Akron Springfield.
The Bulldogs honored seniors Mary Bates, Gracey Radwany and Cassie Whited before the game. It should be noted that none of these three seniors played basketball last season.
"We heard there was going to be a clean start with the program, so we decided to try out," Bates said. "The girls are great and the coaches are great to work with."
Bulldogs coach Chris Nauer has been grateful for his seniors' influence since their arrival.
"I couldn't ask for a better group of seniors," Nauer said. "Cassie Whited has been injured all season, but she's been there at every practice. Mary Bates is an excellent athlete. She can shoot it, as we saw tonight. Gracey, she's just all over the court."
Though Whited was still unavailable due to a foot injury, the seniors had a major influence on Woodridge's season finale.
Bates had a game-high 18 points off six 3-pointers, while Radwany put up 10 as the Bulldogs scored a 56-52 win over Springfield.
Combined with a 54-32 loss at Norton Feb. 4, Woodridge finished the regular season with a record of 4-18, 2-12 in the Portage Trail Conference Metro Division. The Bulldogs managed to sweep the season series with the Spartans, who fell to 6-15, 1-12 in the Metro Division as of press time.
The contest was bit of a disjointed one, with both teams playing out of control at times. Nauer wasn't too concerned.
"Basketball is a game of runs," Nauer said. "They made their runs and we had our runs. Fortunately, we had ours right at the end.
"Defensively, we need to be a little better," he added. "We got the stops when we needed too, though."
Woodridge employed a full-court press to start the game, which seemed to rattle the Spartans at the outset.
Bulldog guard Sophia DeBord scored seven of her 13 points in the first quarter, helping the Bulldogs to a 14-8 lead late in the first quarter. However, back-to-back 3-pointers from the Spartans' Madison Miller and Alicia Smith tied the game at 14-14 after one quarter.
Smith was the Spartans' leading scorer with 13 points.
In the second quarter, Woodridge's offense seemed frozen -- until Bates found her range. Bates scored all nine of Woodridge's second-quarter points on three 3-pointers, as Woodridge took a slight 23-22 edge into the locker room.
"I felt pretty on from the beginning of the night," Bates said.
After a slow second quarter gave way to a frantic third quarter, as both teams started to find their scoring touch. Radwany beat the third-quarter buzzer with a transition layup, giving the Bulldogs a 40-38 lead after three quarters.
Bates hit her sixth 3-pointer of the night to start the fourth quarter, which gave the Bulldogs a bit of a cushion. However, the Spartans did not go away.
With Springfield's defense keying on Bates and DeBord, forward Aniya Rashid found her scoring touch.
After being held scoreless in the first three quarters, Rashid scored nine point sin the fourth, including converting an and-one situation to make it 54-49 Bulldogs with 1:01 left in the game.
Springfield got a layup from Ali Karas to cut it to 54-51 with 22.4 seconds left. After a timeout, however, Radwany got loose against Springfield's pressure defense and hit a layup to clinch the game.
Woodridge's regular season ended a bit early, giving the Bulldogs plenty of time to prepare for the postseason.
At the draw Feb. 5 for the Division II district tournament at Nordonia, Woodridge was given the No. 10 seed. The Bulldogs will open the postseason by traveling to fifth-seeded Cleveland East Tech Feb. 18 at 1 p.m. If victorious, Woodridge would advance to face second-seeded Laurel Feb. 23 at 7 p.m.
"We've got a week and a half to get ready for East Tech," Nauer said. "We're going to take a day off and then get back at it. As I told the girls, the season is not over. We've got more business to do."