The Woodridge boys basketball team lost five key seniors to graduation last spring, but the program hasn’t lost a beat.
The Bulldogs have begun the season by winning their first three games and their first two Portage Trail Conference Metro Division contests.
Woodridge defeated Metro rival Cloverleaf 48-37 Friday at home in the season opener. One night later, they won 74-64 over Akron Firestone as part of the Joe Siegfurth Classic, which Firestone hosts.
On Tuesday, the Bulldogs outclassed division foe Springfield 70-39 on the road.
According to head coach Ric Blevins, his team has exceeded his expectations.
"We’re putting at least three guys on the floor at all times who have very little varsity experience," he said. "I’m very happy with what they’ve done in the preseason, but that doesn’t always translate to wins on Friday night.
"I’m very pleased that we’re at 3-0. I think we’ve earned all three wins. I don’t think we were given anything. But, honestly, we could very well be 1-2 or 0-3 even. We’ve got to consider ourselves fortunate that we’re winning games and we’re learning along the way."
In the win over Cloverleaf, Woodridge jumped out to a 15-5 lead after one quarter. The Colts pulled within 18-13 at halftime, but the Bulldogs stretched their lead to 36-22 after three quarters before the visitors made a run in the fourth quarter.
"They cut it to three points with about four minutes to go," said Blevins, "but we were able to make another run and score enough points to put it out of reach at the end."
Leading the way for Woodridge was junior shooting guard Josh Decker, who scored 19 points, including three 3-point shots.
"Josh played great. He shot the ball really well," Blevins said. "He’s the guy in our offense who doesn’t need our offense in order to score. Fortunately, he was able to step up and make some big shots and make a lot of free throws down the stretch when we were really struggling to create anything offensively.
"He’s a guy who we’re going to have to lean on pretty hard early until we get a little better at what we’re doing."
Sophomore shooting guard Ben Kiser and senior guard Brandon Albright both scored eight points. Included were two 3-pointers by Albright and one from Kiser.
"We really like what we think Ben is going to be capable of doing down the road," said the coach. "He proved himself over the summer that he belongs playing at the varsity level, and through three games he’s done nothing to tarnish that impression that we have.
"Brandon is one of those guys who we know we can count on night in and night out."
Senior shooting guard Josh Fleming had nine rebounds and scored two points.
In the win over Firestone, Woodridge led 17-15 after the first quarter, 30-27 at the half and 51-42 after the third quarter.
"We’d get up on them by about 10 or 12 points, and then they’d cut it back to four or five points," Blevins said. "Once again, our inconsistency offensively is just really making it hard for us to pull away from teams, and this game was a great example of that. We were able to make two or three sustained runs that gave us control of the basketball game, but we were never able to put the game out of reach."
Decker scored 29 points, including six 3-pointers.
"Josh just shot the ball really well," said Blevins. "He’s probably our most experienced scorer at the varsity level, so he’s been through 23, 24 of these games now. He’s starting to show a little bit of aggressiveness and a little bit of leadership. There’s a lot more to his game than just shooting the basketball, and we’re starting to see some of that too."
Junior Marion Hopper scored eight points, while senior point guard Nick Williams had seven points, including two 3-pointers.
"Marion is a kid who works his tail off for us," Blevins said. "He’s our absolute best defender. He’s a very quiet, very unassuming kid but plays with an incredible amount of toughness. It’s something that every high school basketball team needs.
"Nick had a nice bounce-back game after struggling in the opener. He finally got to see a couple shots go in, and when he gets a little bit of confidence he starts playing more to his ability."
Albright scored 12 points, including a 3-pointer. Kiser scored seven points, including a 3-pointer, and Fleming had six points, including a 3-pointer, and eight rebounds.
In the win over Springfield, Woodridge led 19-3 after one quarter, 39-17 at halftime and 49-22 after three quarters. The Bulldogs hit eight 3-pointers. It was the ultimate team victory as they had not one single double-figure scorer.
"But there wasn’t a disappointed face in the locker room afterwards," said Blevins. "I was very proud of the kids’ effort, I was very proud of their unselfishness. Josh was averaging 24 points a game going in, and he scored seven points, but he was as happy as anybody in the locker room after the game was over because we won. It’s about us, it’s not about any one person. We seemed to have put our egos aside so far, and we’re focused on what we can do for each other."
Woodridge is scheduled to host Streetsboro Friday before traveling to Lake Center Christian Saturday at 12:45 p.m. as part of the Greynolds Classic at Barberton
The Bulldogs are scheduled to play at Ravenna Tuesday and at Field Dec. 20 at 7 p.m.