PENINSULA — Perhaps after its wild, all-offense win at Medina Highland Tuesday, Woodridge boys basketball was due to cool off.
Playing a slower-paced game, however, played right into the hands of Cloverleaf Friday, when the Colts visited the Bulldogs.
The game was the definition of an ugly win for the Bulldogs — but it was their seventh straight victory.
Overcoming a languid start, Woodridge did what it needed to do to score a 49-41 win over the Colts Friday. Woodridge improved to 13-4 overall and 9-1 in the Portage Trail Conference Metro Division, as the Bulldogs maintained a two-game lead in the division.
Cloverleaf dropped to 9-7, 6-4 in the Metro Division.
Bulldogs coach Ric Blevins knew his team was facing slow-down tactics vs. the Colts, as Cloverleaf employed a Syracuse-style 2-3 zone.
"It’s all a matter of shooting," Blevins said. "If you come out and make shots, the zone becomes irrelevant. We didn’t hit any shots. It’s not like they were bad shots, but they just didn’t go in. You have some tricks to get open looks and we used them all.
"Down the stretch, we did what we needed to win the ball game," Blevins added.
Blevins lauded Colts coach Jack Banks for his tactics, as Banks noted he wanted no part of a high-scoring contest.
"They put up 81 points and I did not want that," Banks said. "They are fundamentally sound. If you don’t take care of the ball against them, they will hurt you."
How off were athe Bulldogs in the first quarter? Woodridge’s lone bucket came on a layup by Joe Mehalik with five minutes left.
The good news was Cloverleaf’s shooting was just as cold early, as Cloverleaf’s lead was 5-3 after one quarter.
Needing a spark, Blevins pushed Woodridge into a full-court press from the start of the second quarter.
"We had to," Blevins said. "We couldn’t wait for the right moment to press and just have them walk the ball up the floor."
Reserve guard Jabron Driskill helped spark the Bulldogs’ offense, hitting a 3-pointer and then hitting three free throws.
However, the Colts answered by trying to push the ball inside. Colts’ center Sylar Jones — listed at 6-foot-6 — got all six of his points in the second quarter, helping the Colts to keep it close. Woodridge led 19-18 at the half.
Woodridge finally found its shooting touch in the third quarter, thanks to back-to-back 3-pointers from David Massey and D.J. Snyder.
However, Cloverleaf ended the third quarter on an 8-0 run. Reserve guard Matt Tanko keyed the run, including a 3-pointer just before the third-quarter buzzer to give Cloverleaf a 37-33 lead.
Tanko was the lone Colt in double figures with 12 points.
For the second straight game, however, Woodridge played its best basketball in the fourth quarter. The Bulldogs outscored Cloverleaf 16-4 in the final eight minutes and was perfect from the free-throw line in the final 90 seconds.
Sophomore Josh Decker gave Woodridge the lead for good at 41-39 with a 3-pointer at the 3:12 mark in the fourth quarter.
From there, the Bulldogs only gave up one layup and iced the game when Massey hit both ends of a one-and-one, followed by Josh Fleming converting two straight one-and-one situations.
"He hit those after being on the bench for most of the fourth quarter," Blevins said. "Josh is always someone I rely on in big situations."
Free throws proved the difference for the Bulldogs as Woodridge went 12-of-14 from the line, compared to 4-of-4 for the Colts.
Cloverleaf held Snyder to seven points and Massey to 10 points, but Mehalik scored 11 points for the Bulldogs.
"Joe’s a coach on the floor for us," Blevins said. "He does everything he can with his athletic ability. At the end of the game, he made all the right decisions for us."
Woodridge will next see action Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Field.