Back on the court, Woodridge boys basketball finds footing

Roger Gordon
Correspondent
Woodridge foreward Josh Decker puts up a three-pointer during the Bulldogs' home win over Akron Kenmore Garfield Jan. 23

As the Woodridge boys basketball team returned to action after another two-week layoff due to COVID concerns, senior shooting guard Josh Decker is getting some help from several of his teammates.

“We play nine of 10 guys most nights, and we’re getting a lot of contributions,” Bulldogs head coach Ric Blevins said.

A prime example of that occurred Jan. 23 during Woodridge’s home win over Kenmore Garfield that came by about 18 points.

“Josh scored the ball well,” said Blevins, “but James Werts, our senior small forward, played pretty well and freshman Evan Duve played pretty well, too. Senior Isaiah Mitchell has been playing well lately also.”

Woodridge took an early 10-point lead, was up by a dozen points at halftime and then pulled away in the second half.

“We’d played the night before, and playing back-to-back nights isn’t something our kids are used to, but I thought we responded to the challenge pretty well,” Blevins said. “I thought we played four solid quarters of basketball. It was nice for us to play at home. We hadn’t played at home since Dec. 1.”

Three nights later, on Tuesday at home, the Bulldogs easily beat Metro Athletic Conference rival Ravenna 68-42 to improve to 5-3 overall and 3-2 in the MAC.

Said Blevins, “Josh shot the ball really well again, James had a big third quarter with 10 points and Isaiah played well, scoring in double figures off the bench.”

The coach was thrilled with his team’s defensive effort, especially early on.

“We held Ravenna to 14 points in the first half,” he said. “We got up 10 or 12 and were up maybe 16 at the half. We got the lead up even further but struggled toward the end of the third quarter and kind of let Ravenna cut it back to 16 or 18, but we did a really good job in the fourth quarter of putting the game away.”

Woodridge began the week Jan. 22 with a 57-44 loss at MAC rival Norton.

“We played a little better coming out of the two-week break. You never know what you’re going to get in that situation,” said Blevins. “For the most part, I thought our effort was really good. I thought our execution suffered at times, though. We managed to stay in the game all the way into the fourth quarter but just couldn’t quite push it over the hump. I thought our kids played really hard and defensively played a pretty good basketball game

“We’ve just got some offensive execution issues that we’re trying to work through, so we know what the problems are. We’re working on it, it’s just not going to happen overnight.

“Josh played well, shot the ball well, defended well and rebounded well. Isaiah played well, junior Ben Kiser runs the point for us, Evan and his brother Will Duve, a junior, both played big minutes for us and senior Owen Thompson did a nice job.”

According to Blevins, his team needs a few good things to happen.

“We need to build a little confidence here as we start working our way into February,” he said. “Our guys right now have one job, and that’s to go out and play hard, and I think we’re starting to embrace that a little bit. We’re starting to get things going in a positive direction.”

Woodridge was scheduled to host MAC rival Field Friday at 7 p.m. and then host conference foe Springfield Saturday at 3:30 p.m.

The Bulldogs are set to oppose Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy Tuesday.