For most of December, Woodridge boys basketball coach Ric Blevins’ attitude toward his team’s play could best be described as "Bah Humbug!"
A series of slow starts and poor finishes by the Bulldogs left their coach feeling sour, despite being unbeaten in the Portage Trail Conference Metro Division.
Thus, when his team hit the floor last Friday at Coventry — which was co-champion in the Metro Division last year with the Bulldogs — Blevins could be forgiven for fearing the worst.
In the space of one quarter, however, the Bulldogs made sure their coach would have a merry Christmas.
Woodridge routed the Comets 71-47 on Coventry’s home floor, as the Bulldogs took a 22-4 lead after the first quarter and never looked back. Woodridge improved to 6-1, 5-0 in the Metro Division with the win.
"The kids really responded well to the challenge of what Coventry is," Blevins said. " When we came over to the Metro, they were the two-time defending champion. For us, this is a rivalry game. That was a program that we put a bullseye on.
"We enjoy competing against them and we enjoy playing against Coach [Mike] DiFalco," he added.
Blevins noted Coventry tends to be an up-tempo squad, so the game plan was to slow the Comets on defense while trying to get out on the run on offense. The game went right to plan for Woodridge, as they forced 10 steals on defense.
"We forced them to take the shots that we wanted to," Blevins said. "We forced them to play a lot of isolation basketball. We were able to get out on the run a lot.
"We focused on being a half-court defensive team. I think it was the best four quarters of defense we’ve played all season. Any one of our 10 guys had a great day on defense."
Blevins was particularly happy with the defensive work from senior guard Joe Mehalik, who drew the defensive assignment on Coventry’s Jaret Griffith. Griffith, who transfered into Coventry from Maine, finished with a team-high 16 points, but Blevins noted he needed to take a ton of shots to reach that total.
"Joe Mehalik took on the challenge of guarding their best player and did a great job," Blevins said.
Mehalik also finished with with six points.
"We focused on not being ball stoppers on offense," Blevins said. "We spent two days on moving the ball on the floor and we did a good job of it against Coventry."
As usual, Woodridge’s offense came from multiple areas. Senior gaurd DJ Snyder looks to be fully healthy, as he put up a game-high 19 points.
However, Blevins noted junior Josh Fleming had an excellent game for the Bulldogs, finishing with a double-double (14 points and 10 rebounds), including two 3-pointers.
"Josh Fleming was fantastic," Blevins said. "He gives us a lift energywise because he plays so darn hard. He’s a guy that might not give us that kind of production every night, but he will fight for it."
Woodridge also got 10 points from sophomore guard Josh Decker and nine points from senior forward Elijah Arnett, despite Arnett dealing with a larger front court.
"We have a number of guys who are able to lead us in the scoring department. We are not a one-piece puzzle," Blevins said. "When we have three or four guys in double figures, it usually means we have a good night."
Fleming’s 10 rebounds led a 37-rebound effort by the Bulldogs. Senior guard Michael Massey had five points, but also had five steals for the Bulldogs.
"We played better than we had in a while," Blevins said. "We had a four-game stretch where, wins aside, we just were not playing well. In the first three minutes of the game, we put that behind us. I think it’s all behind us now."
Woodridge was set to play in the Cuyahoga Falls Classic Friday at 6 p.m. and Saturday at Cuyahoga Falls.
The Bulldogs will return to action in 2019 by traveling to Norton Jan. 4 at 7 p.m.
Reporter Michael Leonard can be reached at 330-541-9442, firstname.lastname@example.org or @MLeonard_RPC