Woodridge girls basketball stuns Cloverleaf before another COVID pause

Steve Batko
Woodridge senior Bella Owen and Rootstown sophomore Aubrey Kline battle for position under the basket during a game earlier this season

Call them gimmick defenses or sometimes they are tagged as junk defenses.

The Woodridge girls basketball team graded out well facing a slew of defensive sets in surviving in what could be called one of the biggest league road victories in recent Bulldog history.

Layla Foster took care of business at the free throw line, calmly sinking a pair of free throws as the senior sealed the win in the waning seconds, but classmate Olivia Woods and sophomore Leah Mencer faced the brunt of attention of league rival Cloverleaf.

Woods and Mencer survived a full menu of defenses thrown at them by the Colts as Woodridge captured a huge 44-40 win in Lodi.

“The Lady Bulldogs picked up a big road win at Cloverleaf and this was a huge win for these girls as Cloverleaf is well-respected in our league,” said Woodridge mentor Chris Nauer.

Cloverleaf used the entire kitchen sink against the Bulldog scoring leaders in Woods and Mencer.

“They (the Colts) threw everything at us,” said Nauer. “They used a triangle-and-2 defense, traps, zones, and a press, but the girls adjusted.”

Woodridge outscored the Colts 27-22 in the second half and netted 16 fourth quarter points in the defensive battle to move Woodridge to 4-1 in the Metro Athletic Conference and 6-2 overall.

Woodridge forced 17 turnovers and limited the Colts (6-5, 3-2) to just 13 field goals Jan. 11.

More importantly, in this particular contest, the Bulldogs adjusted on the offensive end after Cloverleaf threw off Woodridge with some of its defensive sets.

Woods, a 5-foot-10 senior post who made first-team all-league in 2019, recorded yet another double-double and led the Bulldogs with 13 points.

“Cloverleaf threw a few different defenses specifically at myself and Leah (Mencer), which made us adjust our game plan,” declared Woods. “We didn’t expect these defenses and we have not seen anything like this all year. We realized we needed to be a little more creative when getting to the basket.”

The Bulldogs only committed 13 turnovers despite all the chaos on the court.

Woods, a four-year veteran along with Foster, talked a little history regarding the matchup against the Colts.

“The game was back and forth for all four quarters, it was a good matchup,” Woods said. “It was a very physical game for us as our emotions ran high since we have not beat this program over the past five years. It was a great team win.”

“When Layla (Foster) knocked down two big free throws with under 10 seconds to play, we knew we secured the win,” added Woods.

“Olivia had another double-double and we hit some big shots in what was a full team effort,” said Nauer.

From all of that excitement, however, Woodridge went into quarantine.

Due to contract tracing, Woodridge had to quarantine through Jan. 23 due to the team being considered close contacts to an individual who had tested positive for COVID-19. Thus, all of the varsity games have been postponed.

“Now our schedule will be packed at the end of the season going into the tournament,” said Nauer. “Some of these games may not be re-scheduled, it’s hard to say.”

As it stands now, Woodridge will play next Jan. 27 at home against Cloverleaf.

Although Zoom meetings, virtual practices, and cardio workouts will take place for the team, Nauer also gave his athletes some sage advice.

“I have been stressing to the girls that we can only control what we can control,” offered Nauer, who also leans on a third senior starter in guard Bella Owen. “It’s tough. We will have our strength and conditioning as well as cardio as well.”

Cloverleaf’s strong duo of Tori Smith and Laurel Brown got their gaudy numbers in the clash, but Woodridge held the rest of the entire Colt team to just two field goals.

Despite a tough shooting night, Smith was sensational with 18 points, 12 boards, four 3-pointers, three steals, two assists, and two blocks before fouling out. Brown had nine points, 14 boards and two thefts.

Foster and Mencer each had eight points while standout junior forward Anna Rorrer tallied 10 points and hauled down a career-high 16 rebounds.

Nauer just wants to keep all of this positive energy in motion.