Woodlawn wins sectional title
Cardinals fourth quarter dooms Hawks, head to SIU Arena on Tuesday
NORRIS CITY – Championship programs are never overwhelmed by the moment.

In describing the ten year run of success by the Woodlawn Cardinals, it is best to use the phrase “when the going gets tough, the tough get going.”

The Cardinals entered 2016-17 with nearly an entirely new cast of combatants after graduating four starters from a state tournament team from a year ago.

Needless to say it appeared that new head coach Brian Gamber would be in a rebuilding year.

But in this program, it is just reloading.

The new ones grew up this season and took some lumps, which made the won-loss record an eye sore.

But here they are, a step away from packing their bags for another trip to Peoria.

Friday night at the 1A Norris City-Omaha-Enfield Sectional final, the Cardinals took care of business in the fourth quarter, outscoring a stunned group of Gallatin County Hawks 24-10, to take home their sixth sectional championship with a 50-40 victory in front of over 2,000 fans.

The bigger the moment, the better this team performs.

Another notch was added Friday night.

“They don't know the difference. Kids like to play in Woodlawn. They play all the time, they work on game and they are competitive. I'm a firm believer, I don't know if you can teach competitiveness but we've got it. We have players that may not be as skilled or as talented as we have had in the past. But we have all of the intangibles that you need,” said Coach Gamber, in his first season leading the Cardinals, talking about the legacy. “That is what it is going to take to win. The moment is not too big. We've played and grind out tough games this year. A really good schedule and a tough regional. We've played in great atmospheres. When you play a lot of games like this, it's just another day at the office.”

Freshman Blake McKay stepped off of the bench and led the Cardinals in scoring with 16-points.

Six-foot-two junior forward Trey Isaac added 15-points while sophomore Jackson Bennett added 12.

“They (McKay, Bennett) stepped up. Yes they are a freshman and a sophomore. But they are not anymore. They have 30-games under their belts. Trey Isaac, I don't know how many times he completely blocked his man out tonight,” said Coach Gamber. “They have played in these games and they have been in the fire. They are as tough as they can be. This team has a will to win.”

With the Gallatin County defense keying on senior guard Blake Wollerman (three-points) the other kids stepped up to provide the offensive numbers and another trip to SIU Arena.

Gallatin County senior guard Seth Ramsey led the Hawks (and all scorers) with 25-points in what was his final prep basketball game.

The 5-foot-11 shooting guard finished his career with over 2,000-points for Coach Doug Miller.

But he and his teammates struggled when it counted the most in the final quarter, as Woodlawn took command.

With back-to-back 3-pointers by the Hawks' Robbie Prince and Ramsey, the Hawks led 30-26 heading into the fourth quarter.

Ramsey beat the third quarter buzzer with a 30-footer from the left wing that banked home.

All things looked good for the Hawks to make their first trip to the Carbondale Super since 2013.

Woodlawn, as they have accomplished in an impressive decade of postseason history, responded with a big finish.

Bennett ignited the Cardinals rally with a 3-pointer from the top of the circle just seconds into the final frame.

Wollerman delivered his only points of the night with a 3-pointer from the top.

Isaac made the Hawks pay by cutting to the basket for a score on a pass from senior teammate Jordan Hoppa for a 34-30 Woodlawn lead which forced a Gallatin County timeout.

A three-point play by Bennett pushed the lead to seven as the Hawks were clearly in trouble.

Gallatin County had chances in the final quarter, but they failed to convert from the foul line.

Ramsey missed four consecutive free throws during this Woodlawn run.

The Hawks ended up 9-of-19 from the line overall, 2-of-8 in the final quarter.

In sharp contrast, the Cardinals were “cool customers” from that championship foul line.

“I thought in the fourth quarter the moment showed up,” said Coach Miller. “We got tight. I thought for most of the game the moment didn't bother them. “But we tightened up a little bit and missed some shots.”

Coach Gamber's team finished the game 15-of-20 from the stripe, 14-of-17 in the fourth quarter.

Spreading the floor with a lead on the scoreboard, the Cardinals forced the Gallatin County hand.

Having to foul, the free throw parade turned out to be the finishing touches on the win for Woodlawn.

Even after Wollerman fouled out on a charging foul with 3:08 remaining, Gallatin County couldn't even take advantage of that situation.

When they needed points in the final eight minutes, the Hawks were just 3-of-12 from the field.

Two of the scores came in the final half minute after the contest was decided.

The biggest line of the stat sheet for the night turned out to be rebounding.

Woodlawn owned the glass on both ends of the floor, 24-13 overall.

The Cardinals allowed only one offensive rebound in the fourth quarter and grabbed 12-defensive rebounds in the final eight minutes.

The Hawks were “one and done” until the final moments where they got their lone offensive second chance.

“That (rebounding) is how you win right there. I thought our kids did a nice job of blocking out,” said Coach Gamber. “We controlled the rebounds, going and getting it and being strong. We didn't turn it over and we took care of business at the foul line.”

Hoppa and senior Zach Ashby each scored just two points in the contest.

Both hit 2-of-2 free throw attempts in the final minutes as the Hawks fouled in desperating.

Isaac hit 4-of-4 on consecutive trips to the line as the Cardinals put the game away to a chorus of “S-I-U” began.

The final points of the brilliant career of Ramsey came on a 3-pointer with :32 left.

As this game unfolded, Coach Miller and his club had won games in this postseason journey by keeping the score and the tempo at a crawl.

It worked for most of three quarters on Friday night.

The first quarter ended up with Ramsey scoring on a 3-pointer (one of his five 3's in the game) and a pair of free throws that evened the score at 6-all at the end of a “snail-like” opening stanza.

Then the all-state candidate hit two free throws and a 3-pointer from the top of the circle coming off of a screen for the Hawks largest lead of the night, 11-6 with 6:46 before halftime.

Woodlawn rallied to take a three-point lead at intermission (18-15) behind a pair of 3-pointers from McKay, a trey from Bennett and a three-point play by Isaac.

It was a 12-2 run for an 18-13 Woodlawn lead.

Ramsey hit a pair of 3-point bombs in the third quarter and picked up three more points on a drive to the basket for an “And-One” and a 23-21 Gallatin County lead with 4:19 left.

The back-to-back bombs by Prince and Ramsey at the end of the third had the Hawks' faithful thinking about a Tuesday night trip to Carbondale.

But the fourth quarter just added another chapter to the Woodlawn Cardinals' basketball legacy.

Neither squad shot the ball well from the floor, with Woodlawn being slightly better.

The Cardinals (18-14) ended up 14-of-32 overall, hitting exactly seven 2-pointers and seven 3-point shots.

The Hawks were 12-of-32 (37.5 percent) overall.

Gallatin County finished their impressive season at 21-9 overall, having won the Greater Egyptian Conference regular season title.

“Across the board, we are all 5-feet-11, except for Goebel and he is 6-foot. We were basically a '6-foot and under' team. But we battled against size all year long,” said Coach Miller. “It didn't matter who we played, we battled. We played against giants all year long. We beat several 2A and 3A schools with just hard work. I'm so proud of what these kids accomplished this season.”

The Cardinals live to play yet another game, their seventh supersectional appearance.

Woodlawn is 5-1 in their previous six Elite Eight contests.

The opposition on Tuesday night is Effingham St. Anthony, a 66-57 winner of the Nokomis Sectional over Patoka.

The Bulldogs are 26-5 and ranked second in the final ABV regular season 1A rankings.

“You win big games by not turning it over, making lay ups a free throws and you have got to get big stops. We are guarding really well right now,” said Coach Gamber. “We are not done, yet. We are going to try and keep this game going.”

Gallatin County
Woodlawn (50) – Isaac 5 0 5-5 15, McKay 0 4 4-6 16, Wollerman 0 1 0-0 3, Bennett 2 2 2-5 12, Hoppa 0 0 2-2 2, Ashby 0 0 2-2 2.
2FG-7, 3FG-7, FT-15-20, PF-18.

Gallatin County (40) – Ramsey 2 5 6-13 25, Duvall 0 0 0-0 0, Wargel 0 0 0-0 0, Walters 0 0 0-0 0, Rubio 0 0 2-4 2, A. Walters 2 0 0-0 4, Prince 0 1 0-0 3, Goebel 0 1 1-2 4, Reeder 0 0 0-0 0, Hish 0 0 0-0 0, Rushing 1 0 0-0 2, Bandy 0 0 0-0 0.
2FG-5, 3FG-7, FT-9-19, PF-17.

Fouled Out – Wollerman - Woodlawn; Goebel - Gallatin County.
Technical Fouls – None.