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Oct. 25, 2020

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Woodland basketball cherishes magical run to district title game

Beavers fall to Tumwater, but six-game stretch has them headed to state

By , Columbian Sports Editor
Published:

BATTLE GROUND – The Woodland boys basketball team’s winning run came to an end Friday.

But thanks to a remarkable six-game stretch, the Beavers’ season isn’t yet exhausted.

An overmatched Woodland fell to Tumwater 63-28 in the 2A district championship game Friday at Battle Ground High School.

But that Woodland was simply playing in the district title game and will play in the regional round of the state tournament next weekend is one of the more impressive feats of this high school basketball season.

Nine days prior, Woodland was a team that could have easily been written off.

Woodland finished the regular season 9-11 and endured a seven game losing streak in 2A Greater St. Helens League play.

The Beavers’ season was on the brink Feb. 12, when the Beavers faced Mark Morris in a tiebreaker to decide fifth place in the 2A GSHL.

Even that 60-49 win didn’t earn Woodland automatic passage to the district tournament. The next day, the Beavers survived a district play-in game by beating Aberdeen 58-54.

Woodland lost both of its regular-season meetings to league champ Columbia River by an average of 24.5 points. But the Beavers knocked off the Chieftains 51-48 in a district first-round game, then clinched a state berth with a 48-45 semifinal win over W.F. West on Tuesday.

That capped a six-game win streak for Woodland stretching back to its final two league games, all practically must-win situations. Of those six wins, five were decided by four points or less.

“It’s like the Cinderella in college basketball,” senior Isaiah Flanagan said. “We’re the last seed that nobody expects to win anything. You get it done and it’s fun.”

Isaac Hall figured that even though Woodland’s season was on the brink multiple times, there was no pressure.

“We were the underdogs in everything,” he said “What’s there to lose?”

Coach Jesse Buck said he’ll teach future teams lessons using this year’s group as an example – Never let anybody count you out. When things are tough, stay positive and work hard.

“There haven’t been a whole lot of adjustments,” Buck said. “Even during the seven-game stretch where we lost, the guys showed up the next day and started working like we had just won. Their character never wavered. They never started pointing fingers.”

Tumwater (18-4 and No. 9 in the 2A RPI rankings) put the game away in the second quarter. The Thunderbirds went 9 for 10 from the field, outscoring Woodland 27-6 to take a 40-11 lead into halftime. Tumwater shot 24 for 37 (64.8 percent) from the field.

But even after the game was out of hand, Woodland’s bench cheered hustle plays with intensity. The loudest cheer came when, after the Beavers put in five junior-varsity players in the final minutes, freshman Justin Philpot hit a 3-pointer.

“We just love each other no matter what,” Flanagan said. “No matter what mistakes they make, we’re going to build them up and get ready for the next play.”

Woodland (13-12) will find out its regional opponent on Sunday.

“The run has been nice, but we still expect to win,” Buck said. “We’ll reflect on it later, but we still very much want to win some games and make a run at state.”

Though Friday’s game wasn’t what they hoped, the Beavers will enter state with a newfound confidence after pulling their season back from the brink.

“Once it came down to where we had to win games, you have to keep going,” Flanagan said. “It became heart. It became belief.”

TUMWATER 63, WOODLAND 28

WOODLAND (13-12) – Gus Heidgerken 0, Kyle Oliver 0, Isaac Hall 4, Dane Huddleston 0, Blaine Hix 0, Cole Logan 4, Isaiah Flanagan 3, Beau Swett 0, Drew Burns 0, Easton Ortega 0, Brady Burns 2, Trace Logan 3, Tuff Biddix 5, Trey Hanson 4, Justin Philpot 3. Totals 10 (2) 6-10 28.

TUMWATER (19-4) – Luke Reid 0, Peyton Peterson 9, Jaylen Clay 4, Gunnar Fields 6, Cody Whalen 2, Kaden Lewis 11, Luke Brewer 0, Camden Oram 9, Ethan Dillon 2, Damon Gaither 10, Jack Jones 2, Ryan Otton 8. Totals 24 (7) 8-10 63.

Woodland 5 6 9 8— 20

Tumwater 13 27 21 2— 63

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