During the past couple of seasons, it has been a rarity for the Woodridge boys basketball team to lose a game, let alone two in a row.
But that is exactly what happened Tuesday when the Bulldogs lost 83-73 at Norton in a battle for first place between two Portage Trail Conference Metro Division unbeatens. In the end, it was a cold-shooting second quarter that did Woodridge in.
The Bulldogs, who fell to 8-2 overall and 5-1 in the Metro, trailed 22-19 after the first quarter but were outscored 27-13 in the second period and were staring at a 49-32 halftime deficit.
"Norton played really well in the second quarter and we struggled to score the basketball," Woodridge head coach Ric Blevins said. "I was not very proud of our effort in that second quarter. I thought, as a basketball team, we didn’t do the things that we have to do to make us successful."
The Bulldogs slowly made a game of it in the second half, trimming their deficit to 68-54 at the end of third quarter and actually pulling within five points with some two-and-a-half minutes to go in the game.
"We had the ball at that point but couldn’t score," Blevins said. "We had an opportunity, had a good look, but it didn’t work out.
"At the end of the day, we had to work awfully hard to get our offensive looks and Norton did not. That was the difference in the game. I was very proud of our effort in the second half, though."
Leading the way for Woodridge was senior shooting guard Mason Lydic, who was back to his old self offensively. After scoring just 9 points in a lethargic loss to Walsh Jesuit Dec. 28, he hung up 31 points, including three 3-pointers. He also had 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals and 3 blocked shots.
"Mason took the scoring load," Blevins said. "He played a good all-around game."
Junior guard Michael Massey scored 15 points, including a 3-pointer, and had 3 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals. His classmate, point guard D.J. Snyder, had 12 points, including a 3-pointer, 5 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals.
"D.J. struggled early, but he really atoned for himself in the second half and made some big baskets and a lot of big free throws," Blevins said. "He kind of kept us clawing our way back into the game. He played a solid game as did Michael."
Contributing 8 points, including a 3-pointer, was junior shooting guard Joe Mehalik, who also had 6 boards, 3 assists and 2 steals.
"Joe was a little more aggressive in attacking the basket than he has been," Blevins said. "He can score and hopefully, that’s a sign of things to come. We know what he’s capable of."
Junior small forward Ikye Leggette scored 5 points, hauled down 7 rebounds and added a steal and a blocked shot. His classmate, power forward Elijah Arnett, had 2 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists and a steal.
Even though Blevins likes to take it one day, and one game, at a time, Feb. 16 is likely circled on his calendar. That Friday night is when the rematch with the Panthers will occur, but in the cozy confines of the Woodridge gymnasium. And in all likelihood, the Metro Division championship will be on the line.
"We have work to do," Blevins said. "We have to get better in some very key areas before we play them again."
Woodridge is scheduled to travel to Metro Division rival Springfield Jan. 12 at 7 p.m.
The Bulldogs are set to host Granger Township Highland Jan. 16 and Metro rival Ravenna Jan. 19 on Hall of Fame Night. Both games are scheduled for 7 p.m. tip-offs.
In a make-up game that was originally supposed to be played Jan. 5, Woodridge is set to play at Ellet Jan. 20 in Akron at 7:30 p.m.