A resilient Woodridge boys basketball team faced the flurry of 3-point shots and speed by Cleveland Central Catholic in a district semifinal clash, then challenged it, and fell eventually in a hard-fought season-ending 77-59 loss.
Woodridge, which finished with a school-record mark of 22-2 this winter, lost in the Stow-Munroe Falls Division II district semifinal game May 9, had an incredible stretch in the second half.
The Bulldogs answered a big first half (43-22) by the Ironmen, who pushed the lead to 52-26 early in the third stanza.
Head coach Ric Blevins saw his troops counter punch as a large Woodridge crowd showed its pride.
Forcing seven turnovers and hustling in man defense, second seeded Woodridge went on a spirited 18-2 run.
When senior point guard Preston Clark hit two free throws with 1:35 left in the third, Woodridge had cut the lead to 54-44 and had the momentum.
Central Catholic, blessed with speed, shooting and size, answered with a 6-0 spurt to end the third quarter and then the first four points in the final period for a 64-46 cushion.
"We went from our zone defense to man, and it worked well for us in the second half, plus we have some pretty tough kids," noted Blevins.
"I asked for a new level of toughness after the first half, and our kids came out in the second half and showed something."
Senior guard Sharif Howard hit a pull-up jumper for a 6-0 Woodridge run to slice the lead again to 64-52 with 4:29 left, but CCC came back with its own run, a 6-2 spurt.
Senior Forward Marlon King hit two free throws to cut the lead to 12 with 1:31 left, but Woodridge couldn't score another point.
The Ironmen went on to defeat Cleveland Benedictine 55-52 in overtime March 11 at Stow to win the district title.
Central Catholic (17-8) was red hot from the perimeter in the first half,
"Our zone is pretty effective and the weak spots are in the corner, and they found those spots," said Blevins. "When a team shoots like that, it doesn't matter what defense it is."
Delshawn Jackson buried four triples in the second quarter and five in the first half to score all of his 15 points for Central Catholic in the first half.
"We had a good game plan, but it didn't include them (CCC) hitting five three-pointers in the second quarter," said Bleveins.
"In the second half, we had our backs to the wall and I don't have any guys that are scared," added Blevins.
Blevins saw his team commit seven turnovers against the Ironmen's full-court pressure in the first period, but Woodridge also allowed six offensive boards.
Woodridge started to survive the full court press, but missed some easy shots against the Ironmen, who outscored Woodridge 24-13 in the second period.
Blevins knew CCC would want to take advantage of isolations and its quickness.
"They brought us out and we knew they would spread us out to try and break us down," he said.
Woodridge junior guard Mason Lydic was impressive with 21 points, 13 coming in the first half. He had four steals, three rebounds, two triples, two assists and one blocked shot.
"Mason does what he does and is active on both ends, and he loves the challenge of being the underdog," said Blevins.
Blevins is excited to have Lydic back next year, but will miss a strong senior class of Clark, King, center Aaron Jones, guard Zach Nelson, and Howard.
Clark battled the defensive pressure and poured in 12 points in the second half along with two assists, and two thefts. Clark scored 14 points.
Nelson (three assists) also played well before leaving with an injury.
"Our seniors led us to 22 wins and a school record, and they earned it," Blevins went on. "This is my first group as we started in their freshman year, and they have done everything I have asked. They are a great group of young men."
King fought hard in the paint a long with Jones. King had all nine of his points in the second half and grabbed five boards with three feeds, and had one triple as did Clark.
Jones fought 6-foot-7 forward Miryne Thomas, the Ironmen's season leader in points (17.8) and rebounds (6.4).
Thomas (19 points, 10 boards) was constantly talking to Jones, who just played hard and with some fire. Jones had six points, four caroms, four blocks, and two steals.
Howard netted six points off the bench in the second half.
Sophomore guard Michael Massey also sparked the Bulldogs off the bench. Massey hit a 3-pointer and did a solid job handling the ball against a slew of gifted Central Catholic guards.
Massey saw action as sophomore guard D.J. Snyder missed the post season with an ankle injury.
CCC's Alex Heath burned Woodridge for 12 of his 14 points in the second half.
Heath had five boards and three assists against Woodridge after having 18 assists in the Ironmen's 40-point sectional final win over a Crestwood, a team that lost by five to Woodridge earlier in the year.
Woodridge defended well against guard Tyler Golphin (11 points, six steals) as he came in averaging almost 20 points in his last seven games.