Cairo escapes Woodlawn with win
Pilots pressure forces late Cardinal errors; rally ends with 81-73 victory
WOODLAWN – Not all games live up to the hype but Friday night's non-conference game between Cairo and Woodlawn provided the fans in attendance a peek at what could eventually be a sectional semifinal game.

The Pilots rallied behind defensive pressure in the fourth quarter, forcing Woodlawn into 10 turnovers in the process, as Coach Larry Wood saw his club improve to 20-5 on the season with an 81-73 victory.

Turning up the heat, Cairo got the Cardinals out of their normal comfort zone in the second half, getting the game in to the 70's (score, not temperature) which was a place that Woodlawn head coach Brian Gamber didn't want to see for his young club.

Leading 50-49 heading into the fourth quarter, the Cardinals allowed Cairo to turn the final eight minutes into a track meet.

It was the visitors who hit the finish line first as they dropped Woodlawn to 19-8, which put a damper on the teams' “Senior Night” festivities.

In a matchup of two of the top guards in the 1A South, Woodlawn sophomore Blake McKay led all scorers with 36-points while Cairo senior guard Damarius Taylor countered with 32.

While McKay won this scoring battle, Taylor led the Pilots' fourth quarter comeback to improve his team to 20-5 on the season.

Taylor scored 19 of his markers in the final quarter comeback.

Besides the key turnovers in the fourth quarter Woodlawn committed a total of 21 for the game, way more than the Cardinals are accustomed to.

The other key factor in the loss was the dominating rebounding of the Pilots.

Coach Wood saw his crew command the glass, winning that war 38-21.

Of those 38, 19 of them were on the offensive end.

It allowed Cairo to shoot 32-of-71 from the floor (45 percent) and still come away with the road triumph.

“Our defense was not good tonight. And the fourth quarter turnovers, live ball turnovers that led to layups. We just have no way to defense that,” said Coach Gamber. “And part of it was that we haven't seen quickness like that for most of the year. We saw some teams early that were quick. But those are learning experiences. The kids have to learn. They can't just go around people and you have to block out. We were just bad defensively. We were bad all night.”

While the Pilots coughed up 14-turnovers of their own, only two of those came in the final frame as they came away with the key win.

Besides Taylor, Cairo got 15-points from 6-foot-1 sophomore Fairleigh Ward and 10-points from 6-foot-1 senior Darren Halliburton.

Malachi Brown, a 6-foot-2 senior forward, added eight-points while Coach Wood got seven-points from reserve 6-foot-4 sophomore forward Darrice Morse.

“This was a hard game, it could have gone either way. It was a great game to get us ready for the postseason,” said Coach Wood. “He (McKay) is a tough one to guard because he can score from anywhere on the floor. He is like (Damarius) Taylor. They can both created their own shots. He (McKay) hit some tough shots tonight.”

Woodlawn got 16-points from junior guard Jackson Bennett and 13-points from senior Blake Fewkes.

And four three quarters of the game the Cardinals had things going their way.

McKay proved to be a tough matchup for Cairo as the 6-foot-1 guard shot the ball well, which included a third quarter run in which he scored 13-points in a row for the Cardinals.

However Taylor was also a nightmare to guard.

Held to just five-points in the first half, the all-state candidate scored eight-points in the third quarter and then 19-points in the fourth.

“We wanted to make a conscious effort on 11 (Taylor) but I felt like we let him do whatever he wanted to do. He either scored or assisted on every one of their baskets it seemed like in the second half,” said Coach Gamber. “You are not going to beat them in an 80 to 70 type game. We had moments when we played well and I get it, we were hitting shots and scoring points. But if we played them 100 times and the score was in the high 70's we would lose 100 times out of 100. I have no doubt about that. To beat them you have to guard, be patient and not turn it over. They can pressure you and force you to do things you don't want you to do.”

The game produced some very good offensive runs from both squads.

Woodlawn broke an early 5-5 tie with eight-points in succession with McKay and Fewkes hitting 3-pointers and Bennett adding a drive to the basket.

But Cairo matched the run to even things at 13-each.

Morse, Ward, Brown and Taylor all added points.

But McKay tossed in a pair of free throws and also a driving lay in for a 17-13 first quarter finish.

The hosts got some separation in the second quarter with Fewkes taking advantage of being sent to the foul line.

He hit three free throws in a row after being fouled shooting a 3-pointer.

He then added two more from the stripe just before Bennett found the mark from the arc to give Woodlawn its largest lead of the evening at 28-19 with 3:42 left before halftime.

Cairo rallied in the final minutes of the half to close the gap.

Ward scored on drive in the lane and Taylor added five-points on a pair of free throws and a conventional three-point play to make it 30-26 Woodlawn at the break.

While McKay was getting his points (12) in the third quarter, so was Ward for the Pilots.

The sophomore hit three 3-pointers in the third quarter and Taylor added four made shots inside the 3-point line.

After Fewkes hit a 3-point bomb from the left corner that gave Woodlawn a 50-42 advantage, Cairo scored seven-consecutive points.

Ward, Taylor and Halliburton all produced points and Ward's third trifecta cut the deficit to just one heading into the what turned out to be a hectic fourth quarter.

Cairo finally got to the lead on the opening possession in the fourth quarter on a rebound basket by Brown.

Woodlawn's final advantage came when McKay scored four straight points on two free throws and another drive to the basket which was followed by two foul shots from freshman Hunter England.

A 12-3 defensive oriented run by the Pilots gave them back the lead for good.

Consecutive Cairo steals produced points by Morse and Halliburton.

Eight-straight points from Taylor pushed the Cairo lead to 71-63.

Woodlawn made one final run to get close.

Freshman Hayden England and McKay scored consecutive baskets and Bennett added a pair of free throws with :56.9 remaining to cut it to 74-73.

Taylor took care of the rest of the game, scoring on a steal and fast break where he went the length of the floor.

The senior playmaker added another transition basket and 3-of-4 free throws to make the Pilots winners on this night.

“We were hoping for that (run) with our steady pressure we try to put on teams. We finally got it going in the fourth quarter,” said Coach Wood. “In past years (adversity) we would let things get to us but we have worked on that to get better and handling things. We've been able to get through that this year. We have to handle it in the postseason which is coming up.”

Woodlawn ended up 20-of-43 from the field and they also got to the foul line as they took advantage of the Pilots' foul issues.

The Cardinals were 25-of-32 from the stripe compared to 12-of-19 for Cairo.

But the key turnovers in the final minutes and the inability to keep the Pilots off of the offensive boards doomed the hosts.

“We gave ourselves a chance because we did play hard and offensively we did make some shots but, again, we have to get stops and take better care of the ball,” said Coach Gamber. “Ten turnovers is a lot for a game, let alone in one quarter.”

Cairo will get right back into action as they have an afternoon home game on Saturday against Lovejoy.

Woodlawn will open play next week in the 1A Zeigler-Royalton Regional as the #3 seed against #12 seeded host Tornadoes.

Cairo is the top-seed in the other sub-sectional and will play at the 1A Gallatin County Sectional with its first game being on Wednesday night against the winner of Monday's matchup between Crab Orchard and Hardin County.

“I hope we keep playing them (schedule) it was great for our kids and hopefully they feel like it was a good game for them,” said Coach Gamber.

This game wasn't on the regular schedule at the beginning of the fall.

But because of Clay City co-oping with North Clay, who left the Midland Trail Conference to join the National Trail Conference, it left a one-game void for Woodlawn and the rest of the MTC schools.

The date that was open was the final Friday of the season.

Woodlawn called up Cairo and the Pilots were happy to play the Cardinals.

“I was really glad early in the (school) year when they (Woodlawn) called and asked for a game. And when they said in February that was even better,” said Coach Wood. “This is the kind of team that we might see in the postseason. They have a great program here.”

Cairo (81) – Ward 3 3 0-1 15, Vaughn 0 1 2-3 5, Jones 1 0 0-0 2, Taylor 10 1 9-12 32, M. Brown 4 0 0-0 8, Halliburton 5 0 0-0 10, I. Brown 0 0 0-2 0, Nelson 1 0 0-0 2, Morse 3 0 1-2 7, Miles 0 0 0-0 0.
2FG-27, 3FG-5, FT-12-19, PF-22.

Woodlawn (73)
– McKay 8 4 8-11 36, Rynski 0 0 0-0 0, Bennett 2 1 9-12 15, Hollenkamp 0 1 0-0 3, Fewkes 1 2 5-5 13, Hunter England 0 0 3-4 3, Hayden England 1 0 0-0 2, Tiemann 0 0 0-0 0.
2FG-9, 3FG-6, FT-14-20, PF-13.

Fouled Out
– M. Brown - Cairo; Rynski, Hollenkamp - Woodlawn.
Technical Fouls
– None.