Hammond standout Seventh Woods knew what was at stake during Friday’s rematch of last year’s state championship game before a standing-room-only crowd at Cardinal Newman.
Both teams were coming off unexpected losses to Heathwood Hall, but the winner would take control of the Region 1-3A race in SCISA with two games remaining.
Woods, a sophomore, helped his team overcome an eight-point fourth-quarter deficit, and then took over in overtime with 12 of the Skyhawks’ 15 points in a 69-65 victory over the defending state champion Cardinals.
“Everyone talks about Seventh’s explosiveness and athletic ability, but he probably played one of his best games as a point guard,” Hammond coach Mark McClam said.
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“He kept us in control without us getting too fast or too slow. It’s not the first time he’s taken over a game at the end when we really needed it.”
Cardinal Newman coach David Ross gave Woods the credit he deserved in his 28-point, seven-rebound, four-assist effort.
“There wasn’t a lot we could do about it,” Ross said. “Sometimes you have to sit back and admire what he’s able to do.”
Woods scored 21 of his 28 points after halftime.
“I had to be aggressive and take what they gave me,” Woods said. “I was flashing to the middle and it was hard for them to stop me when I got in there.”
Hammond (19-5, 5-1) trailed almost from the beginning thanks to the 20-point first half from Cardinal Newman’s Charles Smith. The senior transfer from Keenan was 6-of-8 on 3-pointers in the first half and nearly kept pace with the Skyhawks as Cardinal Newman (17-8, 5-2) built a 33-24 halftime advantage.
Smith finished with 32 points and connected on seven 3-pointers.
“Charles played in the post at Keenan, but what we’ve determined is he’s one of the best shooters in the state,” Ross said. “None of what he did today was a surprise to us. He’s come to play against the best competition.”
Hammond trailed 35-32 early in the third quarter on a thunderous dunk by Woods, but the Cardinals were able to push the lead back to eight by the start of the fourth quarter. Smith had four points as four players scored to build the lead to 44-36 entering the final quarter.
Xavier McDaniel gave Hammond its first lead since the opening basket of the game with a rebound stickback with under two minutes remaining in regulation. The teams combined for four ties and four lead changes in the final 4:28 that included a hectic final 16 seconds.
Chavez Goodwin gave Hammond a 53-52 lead with a hook shot in the lane with 16 seconds left. The Cardinals were whistled for a charge on the ensuing possession before Goodwin made 1-of-2 free throw with eight seconds remaining for a two-point lead. Zakki Parker drove he length of the court and dumped it off to Joe Armstrong for a twisting layup at the buzzer to force overtime.
Woods opened the extra period with a jumper and his third dunk to give Hammond the lead for good. Woods was 6-of-6 from the free throw line as the Skyhawks connected on 9-of-12 in the extra period.
“Our guys were resilient,” McClam said. “They never panicked and never felt like they were out of the game. We’ve won a lot of games in the fourth quarter, so we had the confidence at the end.”
Even though Woods garnered the attention, he got solid support from Goodwin and McDaniel, who each finished with 14 points.
The teams will play again on Tuesday thanks to the scheduling problems due to the recent inclement weather.
“Winning road games are huge, especially against someone as talented as Cardinal Newman,” McClam said. “A lot of people were anticipating this game and it didn’t disappoint. We still have Augusta Christian on the road (tonight) and Cardinal Newman back at our place in four days. It’s going to be fun.”
H: Seventh Woods 28, Chavez Goodwin 14, Xavier McDaniel 14, Carlson 6, Prickett 3, King 2, Fisher 2. CN: Charles Smith 32, Armstrong 9, Lake 8, Cunningham 6, Parker 4, Halfacre 3, Gatling 3.