Winder-Barrow boys’ basketball coach Travis McDaniel has praised his team’s senior leadership and ability to handle adversity throughout the year — big reasons, he says, that the Bulldoggs have been able to avoid any losing streaks longer than two games.
After a blowout region loss at home to Lanier on Friday, Jan. 17, and a 10-point non-region setback at Clarke Central the next day, the Bulldoggs got back on track in a big way Tuesday, Jan. 21, at rival Apalachee, using tough defense and hot shooting in the second half to turn a close game at the break into a 73-39 rout.
With the win, Winder-Barrow (14-8, 4-3 GHSA Region 8-AAAAAA) completed a regular-season series sweep of the Wildcats (4-15, 0-7). Ten players scored for the Bulldoggs, three finished in double figures, and junior forward Isaiah Nelson-Ododa nearly finished with a triple-double.
“The stat that really stood out to me was we had 10 assists and only 7 turnovers,” McDaniel said, noting that the Bulldoggs had 22 giveaways in their first meeting with the Wildcats, a 73-62 victory on Jan. 4. “We knew we need to keep that number down. Our goal was 12 or 13, but keeping it to 7 allows you to miss some shots. And we missed a lot of shots in the first half, but I told them to keep taking care of the ball and sharing it and the shots would fall.”
The Bulldoggs led 27-22 at the half but went on a 22-6 run midway through the third quarter to build a 52-31 advantage entering the final period.
“The better your defense is, the better your offense is, and we started getting some stops and getting out in transition,” McDaniel said. “We talked about winning the third quarter. I didn’t know we would win it like that, but they came out with a great defensive effort for sure.”
Nelson-Ododa, who finished with a game-high 17 points, 11 rebounds and 8 blocks, was a big factor in the Bulldoggs’ third-quarter spurt, using his 6-foot-10 frame to dominate on the glass and create several opportunities for his teammates.
“I wish he could play with that motor every night,” McDaniel said. “When he’s locked in and moving his feet and active, there’s definitely not a better big in the region and I don’t know if there’s a better big in all of 6A. He’s super-skilled, and when he plays hard like that, he’s really an elite player.”
Apalachee, meanwhile, continued to struggle, losing its eighth straight contest dating back to a Dec. 17 win at North Oconee. The Wildcats had their best stretch of the night early in the second quarter, using a 9-0 run to go up 16-11. But Winder-Barrow responded with a 10-2 run to go back on top and never looked back. Sophomore Tim Loud (12 points, 7 rebounds off the bench) sparked the Bulldoggs, drilling a 3-pointer to put them ahead 19-16 with just over three minutes left in the half. He scored four more points before the break and then had five more in the second half.
“He’s grown up a ton as the year has gone on,” McDaniel said of Loud. “He’s getting more aggressive. He’s getting more comfortable with the speed of the game slowing down. And he is a flat-out phenomenal athlete who plays with reckless abandon.”
Both teams have three regular-season games — all region games — remaining before the region tournament at Gainesville next month. The Bulldoggs will be at Habersham Central at 8:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 24, while the Wildcats will be at Gainesville at 8:30 p.m. Friday.
“This time of year, we just want to be getting better every day,” McDaniel said of the home stretch. “The teams that win this time of year are the teams that are getting 1 percent better every day. When you get to that region tournament, playing your best ball is what matters.”
WBHS GIRLS 58, AHS 37
In Tuesday’s girls’ game, Winder-Barrow started with a dominant 18-0 run and rolled from there to an easy win despite a somewhat sloppy second half.
Sophomore Taniyah Parrish exerted her will on the inside, scoring a game-high 25 points. Kiona Lindsay also finished in double figures with 13 points, while Daisia Stillwell added 9 as the Lady Bulldoggs completed a regular-season sweep of Apalachee.
The Lady Bulldoggs (13-9, 3-4 region) once again employed an aggressive full-court press on the Lady Wildcats, forcing them into several turnovers and quick buckets.
“We did well tonight,” Winder-Barrow coach Kimberly Garren said. “The first half is the kind of basketball we need all the time as far as our defensive stance and getting in the gaps. The second half, we got a little complacent and it’s hard for a team not to be when you’re up that big at halftime (33-10).
“We missed some shots in the second half, but we pushed through. We’ve just got to keep pushing. We’ve got to be able to run our offense and play good defense for four quarters.”
A rebuilding Apalachee team (2-20, 0-7) was led by senior Joanna Gross’ 12 points while sophomore Jasmine Williams added 11.
The Lady Wildcats opened the second half on a 9-0 run to cut the deficit to 14 points before a bucket by Parrish with 3:04 remaining in the third quarter got Winder-Barrow back on track.
The Lady Bulldoggs will play at Habersham Central at 7 p.m. Friday, while the Lady Wildcats will be at Gainesville for a 7 p.m. tip.
W 9 18 25 21 — 73
A 6 16 9 8 — 39
W: Isaiah Nelson-Ododa 17, Tim Loud 12, Tyreek Perkins 10, Stewart Allen 8, Cam Stillwell 7, Garrison Pickens 6, Alvin Scott 4, Alex Gibson 4, Ahmad Scott 3, Timmy Presley 2
A: Josue Caples Torres 9, Jamonte Wallace 8, Brayson Hayes 7, Shaan Cook 6, Quincy Tate 6, Elijah Contreras 2, Montee Flahn 1
W 21 12 11 14 — 58
A 6 4 13 14 — 37
W: Taniyah Parrish 25, Kiona Lindsay 13, Daisia Stillwell 9, Keirsten Jackson 6, Teonna Hamler 3, Keonna Hamler 2
A: Joanna Gross 12, Jasmine Williams 11, Kelly Richardson 7, Averie Akin 5, CeCe Marks 2