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Youthful Hawks team gets tough test from ranked Collins-Maxwell

Sean Cordy
Correspondent
Woodward-Granger's Darby Nixon in action during a game last season.

A limited audience and a fresh coat of paint weren't the only new looks for Woodward-Granger (0-1). The girls basketball team had an almost entirely new look as well in Friday's season-opening 56-23 loss against the No. 11 Collins-Maxwell Spartans (1-0).

With only one full-time starter for the Hawks up against the seasoned Spartans coming off their best campaign in a decade, Friday served as quite the reversal compared to last year's 48-38 Woodward win.

"They're a good ball club. They've got experience. They've got scorers and they got depth," W-G head coach Gary Dresback said of the state hopeful opponents’ advantage. "When you play a really experienced team early in the season, they're going to have a gigantic advantage."

Slow Start

Stuck in single digits for the better part of the first quarter, both teams were rationing points, with any change on the scoreboard being a sigh of relief on both ends. 

Following Darby Nixon's first points on the board for the Hawks, the bulk of those moments came from the visiting team in blue, as the Spartans found comfort around the arc. Moving the ball outside, the Collins-Maxwell went on a 15-point run to hold a 23-4 lead before Dresback called a timeout to recollect his squad.

Teaching Moments

Drawing up plays on the floor, Dresback got the team to shake the "deer in the headlights" look. After pausing for a minute, the Hawks went on a 9-2 run thanks in part to three-pointers from both Nixon (14 pts, 4-of-9) and Rian Jamison (3 pts, 1-of-3).

That momentum was short-lived, as Collins-Maxwell continued to apply pressure after halftime. Woodward took until the final 11 seconds of the third quarter to score, with the drought broken by McKenna Carroll (3 pts, 1-of-1). A particular struggle came against the Spartan press which forced a dozen turnovers.

"Their press is decent but we made it look really good by standing and not making the cuts that we should," Dresback said. "When we slashed hard and made a strong pass, we beat it without trouble…It was more about some decision making and some failed cuts. I put that on us as opposed to giving them credit. But a lot goes to them."

Bright Spots

While the Hawks' output paled in comparison to last year's matchup, the team had its shining moments. Sophomore forward Grace Deputy found a happy home down low as the team's leading rebounder and blocker. Dresback praised her ability to control the lane, particularly staying out of foul trouble and hopes to see more develop from her as an attacker on offense as Nixon did in a leading role.

The team's most-seasoned player, Nixon had a career-high 14 points after collecting three treys and was perfect on all six free throws to make up the majority of the team's offense.

"I just wish we would have stayed a little bit more focused and stuck within our game plan, handled the ball a little better," Dresback said. "Too many times we acted like we didn't want the ball in our hands."