Big week sets Woodridge girls basketball up for postseason run

Steve Bakto
Woodridge guard Layla Foster controls the ball during a game earlier this season against Norton.

Teamwork can spread on a team and that infectious energy is something that the Woodridge girls basketball squad is looking to feature late in the season as the Bulldogs received their post season draw.

As Woodridge works to prep for the extra season, the club has a feel to it that will look to share the rock even more as the tournament looms near.

Chris Nauer is getting contributions from everyone as the recent sectional draw was significant for the program.

“It was a good draw as this will be the first time since I have been here that we are having a home game for sectionals,” explained Nauer, who is in his fifth year as head coach.

As the 18th seed in the Division II Region 6 sectional in the Northeast district 5 bracket, Woodridge will host 26th-seeded Parma Heights Holy Name on Feb. 17 at 7 p.m.

It was all part of a big week as Woodridge moved to 8-3 overall and to 6-2 in the Metro Athletic Conference with a big 55-29 home decision over Akron Springfield Feb. 3.

As the program recently returned from a quarantine pause and was a bit sluggish in a 38-32 loss to Coventry, but the Bulldogs responded with a pair of resounding wins, including a 61-28 league win over Ravenna.

While powerful Norton continues to win in the MAC, Woodridge has fought to earn second place over Cloverleaf (5-3).

Balanced scoring and defense keyed the wins, but it was good to see the Bulldogs post 12 assists in the win over the Spartans.

The starting guard duo of senior Bella Owen and sophomore Leah Mencer teamed for 27 points, five 3-pointers, and seven steals.

Draining three triples, Owen finished with a game-high 15 points while Mencer added two treys, 12 points, five thefts, and dished out three assists.

Mencer has also increased her on-ball pressure on the defensive end, along with Bulldog guards and wings who have been doing a great job with their full court pressure and player rotations that go along with it.

Speedy junior wing Izzy Best was a big part of that pressure.

Thriving in the transition game, Best had a superb outing on both ends and netted nine points while junior forward Anna Rorrer added eight points, five boards and two blocks.

There was plenty of balance as Woodridge didn’t need senior Olivia Woods’ offense, but she did a little bit of everything with six points, 10 boards, and two thefts.

Senior guard Layla Foster had two points and four caroms and handled the ball-handling duties off of the bench.

Continuing to shine off the bench is junior guard Kendal Gregory, who is reaching her stride this season with sensational play on both ends of the ball.

Gregory dished out a career high four assists in the win and had four steals and three points.

That came after Gregory exploded for a career high 11 points in the win over Ravenna. She collected five boards too. Springfield (3-11, 3-6) was led by guard Ellie Gardinier’s seven points.

A three-year program player who saw a glimpse of rotation minutes last year, the athletic Gregory is really coming into her own as she takes quality shots and does not play out of control.

“That was a breakout game for Kendal and she is really playing with great confidence now,” explained Nauer. “She works extremely hard and Kendal really understands her game; she doesn’t try to do too much.”

Woodridge forced 52 turnovers in the two wins. The Ravens (2-12, 1-10) were led by Kyla Carney with eight points as she had three of Ravenna’s 10 field goals.

“We can be one of the best defensive teams in the league and that is our identity this season,” pointed out Nauer. “We came out and our defensive intensity was great and we sustained it.”

“When you see Anna Rorrer and Izzy Best, and also Leah Mencer out there flying around, you know you can have a good defense and everyone is contributing.”

Mencer poured in 17 points, 14 in the second half, and had four steals.

Woods scored nine points and pulled down 12 rebounds while Owen also defended well with four steals and eights points.

Best had five points, four rebounds, and three feeds while more post defense came from Rorrer (five points, six boards) and junior Emma Stekelenburg, plus Foster (four points, four boards) out on the wing.