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COLLEGE PARK (GA) – After halftime, the region championship was still up for grabs until the Woodward Academy War Eagles made it clear they weren’t leaving with the runner-up trophy.
Thanks to a pair of critical scoring runs in the third quarter, Woodward pulled away from Henry County on the way to 67-51 victory in the Region 4-AAAA tournament finale at North Clayton High on February 8.
“Winning the region tournament was our first step and our goal was to play our best by the end of the year,” Woodward coach Anthony Thomas said. “We still got room to grow but we are a much better team now than we were at the beginning of the year.”
Led by Jacorrei Turner (23 points, 10 rebounds, six assists and two blocks), Will Demorest (18 points–all in the second half), Walker Kessler (14 points, 19 rebounds, six blocks) and Michael Whitmore (eight assists), the War Eagles won their second straight region championship and eighth game in a row.
With the score tied at 21 to begin the third, Turner, who led Woodward in scoring in the first half, sparked a 9-2 run with back-to-back layups, and Demorest, who missed all of his shots in the first half, buried his first 3-pointer to cap the surge for a seven-point advantage.
Following a Henry County timeout, Demorest nailed another 3 and Whitmore found Turner for a layin, resulting in a 35-23 score. Josh Steele (17 points) made one of his five 3-pointers to reduce the margin back to single digits but Kessler responded with a jumper and Whitmore found Turner streaking towards the basket for a crowd-pleading one-handed dunk.
“We’ve been preaching being disciplined and being consistent from game to game, making sure each possession we are doing the same thing over and over again,” Thomas said. “That third quarter was just us coming together and working consistently on offense and defense each play down the floor and that’s what we were able to do. Luckily, we got some shots to go in. Will got really hot and Jacorrei was really aggressive going to the basket. They’ve been our glue guys all year. They just stepped up and did that for us.”
Moments later, Whitmore punctuated the 11-3 run with a tough shot off the glass for a 41-26 advantage. Eventually, the War Eagles entered the final period ahead by 11.
“[Michael’s] the captain of the ship,” Thomas said. “I just told him you got to tough it out. You are going to get bumped. They are going to hold you and push you but you just got to be tough. I told him he’s built for it. He played a heck of a game today and we thank him for it.”
Woodward remained comfortably ahead the entire fourth quarter en route to also avenging its loss to the Warhawks in January.
“Every game is going to be tough,” Thomas said. “Every team is going to be loaded so we got to watch film, go back into the lab and put some more work in–just know that whoever we play we are going to get their best.”
Wisdom Uboh had 15 points and six assists for Henry County, which will participate in the state playoffs as well.