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Woodbridge Bounces Back, 56-50

Boys' Division II-AA: Warriors' third-quarter surge gives them lead and momentum they need to defeat Villa Park.


ANAHEIM — Woodbridge had played the entire 1996-97 basketball season just to get to Saturday's Division II-AA championship game, a game it had not won since 1988.

But once they got there, the Warriors (27-3) made sure they did not waste the opportunity, overcoming stubborn and spirited Villa Park, 56-50, in front of 8,899 at the Pond.

A 15-2 surge at the start the third quarter helped the Warriors overcome a 24-19 Villa Park halftime advantage, and give Woodbridge a lead and the momentum it did not squander in the second half.

The victory culminated season-long expectations for Woodbridge, which had been bounced out of the playoffs before the semifinals the previous two seasons. It also was the Warriors' second victory over the 24-5 Spartans this season; the Warriors won, 71-56, in a tournament game in December.

"This is obviously a great thrill for our kids and school," Woodbridge Coach John Halagan said. "We knew the second time with Villa Park would be a war, and it was. I believe they are going to do some damage in the state tournament."

Chris Burgess, who finished with 17 points and 13 rebounds despite making only seven of 19 field-goal attempts, admitted that he and his teammates had butterflies. In the first two quarters, the Warriors missed their first 13 attempts, were unable to stop Eric Chenowith inside (12 first-half points) and twice trailed by eight.

Chenowith, who says he felt embarrassed by the 30 points that Burgess scored against him in their first meeting, was "very pumped up" this time around. Chenowith posted game highs in points (23) and rebounds (16) Saturday.

"I know he wanted to send a message today that he could play," Villa Park Coach Kevin Reynolds said.

But despite being in control of the game, Villa Park was unable to panic or bury Woodbridge.

"Villa Park was superb in the first half," Halagan said. "But we felt it would be tough for them to sustain that level. We told our guys at halftime to keep an even keel, and that in the long run we could win it."

But Halagan did more than talk. He had the Warriors start the half with a 1-3-1 zone--a defense they installed for this game--that also trapped any Spartan handling the ball in the corners. That ended the easy looks Chenowith was getting at the basket, and also speeded up the tempo more to Woodbridge's liking.

The result was Woodbridge flustering Villa Park into some turnovers early in the second half, getting some fast-break baskets, and taking the play away from the Spartans.

Spartan point guard Isaiah Cavaco, who had 15 points, said the defense caught Villa Park off balance.

"It was our fault [not to react to the defense sooner]," Cavaco said. "It was something they must have saved for us."

Said Reynolds: "Everybody talks about their offensive capability, but they don't get enough credit on how well they can play defensively. Once they got on a roll, they were pretty hard to stop.

"We didn't get enough people to step up today. We had some mental breakdowns that cost us. At times, it seemed Eric and Isaiah were playing alone out there."

Burgess, meanwhile, got help from Brandon Beeson (15) and William Stovall (14).

In the end, Woodbridge showed it was the better team.

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