WOODLAND — There’s nothing quite like a big game in a small gym.
The five rows of bleachers on each side of Woodland High School’s court held all the people they could. Dozens more stood in the gym’s corners.
From the balcony, the pep band’s notes bounced off the walls like a stereo trapped in a treasure chest.
The Woodland boys basketball team rode that energy to a 64-55 win over La Center in one of the area’s best small-school rivalries.
Down by as many as 15 in the second quarter, Woodland caught La Center at the end of the third quarter.
Troy Flanagan’s 3-pointer gave Woodland a 53-49 lead with 1:18 to play.
The Beavers then iced the game at the foul line. Tanner Huddleston made 8 of 8 free throws in the final 1:08, each swish drawing top-of-the-lung screams from Woodland’s students.
Student bodies separated by six miles spent the game lobbing good-natured taunts across the court. Woodland coach Jason Buffum said that energy helped his team overcome 21 turnovers and 2-for-15 shooting from 3-point range.
“That was by far our best crowd,” Buffum said. “A lot of these kids grew up playing each other. They’re friends but they want to win too. It’s a friendly competitive atmosphere.”
Woodland junior Jake Rosenbalm fed off the energy. The 6-foot-4 post scored a game-high 19 points and grabbed 19 rebounds.
“It’s a pretty big rivalry,” Rosenbalm said. “They beat us in football, so this is getting them back. It was crazy and chaotic. There was a lot of yelling. It’s pretty nice.”
The game was frenetically paced and tightly officiated. Whistles kept he game from having much rhythm.
That style ended up suiting Woodland, which shot 34 free throws to La Center’s 12. Huddleston finished 16-for-16 from the foul line.
“When you have that many attempts to go to the line in a game like this … we’re probably going to be on the short end of it,” La Center coach Jon Schroeder said. “Sometimes that’s how it is.”
At 12-2, Woodland is one-half game behind Kalama for the Trico League lead with four games to play.
La Center, which entered this week No. 6 in the Associated Press 1A state poll, suffered its second straight loss. The Wildcats are in third place at 10-4.
“My philosophy is that when we win, I say very little. When we lose I say a whole lot less. With a win, it’s over and done with. We do the same thing with a loss. We’ve got two games next week we’ve got to go take care of.”
WOODLAND 64, LA CENTER 55
LA CENTER — Connor Wonderly 13, Chase Davison 5, Wyatt Aguirre 5, Matt Braaten 16, Brody Seter 3, Dalton Morgan 3, Will Rice 6, Mason Parmentier 4. Totals 22 (5) 6-12 55.
WOODLAND — Ryan Sturdivan 3, Tanner Huddleston 16, Jake Rosenbalm 19, Logan Piper 12, Anthony Dizon 5, Ben Clevenger 0, Hunter Huddleston 0, Kyle Hendrix 4, Troy Flanagan 5. Totals 17 (2) 28-34 64.
La Center 18 10 13 14–55
Woodland 10 13 17 24–64
JV — Woodland 73-46