Hawks continue hot streak with big win in opening round

Sean Cordy
Correspondent
Trevor Simmons looks to score against a trio of Chariton players on Monday, Feb. 15 in Woodward.

After earning a first-round bye in last year's postseason, Woodward-Granger (9-13) would need to win the play-in game to keep the Hawks' season alive. With a 71-31 win over Chariton (1-16) on Monday, the Hawks gave a more than convincing case for the season to live another day.

Blackjack

Had the game been in Vegas, the Hawks probably would have been suspected of counting cards. Hiding an ace and king up their sleeves, Woodward chased down the first 21 points of the game, easily the team's greatest stretch this season.

Of course, the giant lead was aided by the minor amount Chariton was able to pushback having only one win behind them this season. Regardless, the Hawks positioned themselves with a strong attack that minimized turnovers and maximized takeaways in the early minutes, running the score up to 42-11 by halftime.

"We played well defensively," Woodward head coach Brent Achenbach said. "That's what kind of got us out there and then we created some run-outs and got some stops and ran the floor. Easy buckets."

Worth Henry goes up for a basket on Monday, Feb. 15 during a regional game in Woodward. Henry put up 17 points in the Hawks' 71-31 win over Chariton.

Worth Henry was the biggest beneficiary of all the space on the floor, putting up 17 points. Brody Nardini and Trevor Simmons were right behind him with 12 points.

"[Worth's] one of our guys I think that does a great job of penetrating and pulls up and creates his own shot," Achenbach said of the highlight performance. "Him and Dylan (Backe) can kind of do that a little bit."

All the right moves

Fans would be remiss to discount Woodward's four-game win streak as playing an easy schedule based on Monday's blowout against a one-win program. The Hawks' three previous wins — highlighted by a 56-54 win over ACGC (16-5) — came against teams with a combined win percentage of 77 percent this season. All that considered, Achenbach said this might be the best stretch of the season, all spurred by the whole roster.

In the nail-biter against ACGC, it was Henry that stood highest with 19 points as he missed only three shots all night. Central Decatur tightened up a little more but Dylan Backe walked in 17 points largely thanks to his work at the charity stripe. And in a 20-point win over Mormon Trail, Simmons, Backe, Henry and Walker Deputy all crossed double digits (with Backe and Henry combining for 11 steals).

Woodward-Granger's Dylan Backe at the free-throw line on Monday, Feb. 15.

Moving forward

With the win, the Hawks earned a spot in the regional quarterfinal Wednesday at PCM (10-10). If past games this season are any indication, this should be a toss-up as the Mustangs have won both games against their mutual opponents with Woodward.

PCM won by 10 points against Earlham while the Hawks lost by two. Similarly, PCM won by 12 against Greene County compared to the Hawks' seven-point loss.

Further in the weeds, W-G and PCM are nearly identical in terms of points scored and allowed, shooting efficiency and turnover rate. PCM has a distinct advantage with 32 rebounds per game to the Hawks' 24, and averages three fewer fouls. 

PCM has a much more focused attack with two players scoring double digits per game and resident big man Durant VanDyke averages nine rebounds and points. Comparatively, Woodward's attack relies more on depth with seven players over five points per game, any one of which is capable of a big performance as shown over the course of the win streak. Achenbach said as long as the Hawks can control their possessions in transition and on the glass, there's every bit of expectation to keep the season alive.

Trevor Simmons brings the ball down the court for the Hawks on Monday, Feb. 15 during a postseason match-up with Chariton.