WOODSTOCK – Ashton Sutton made a pair of free throws with 2 seconds left as Woodstock made just enough shots to hang on for a 60-57 victory over West Forsyth in the first round of the Class AAAAAA state playoffs on Wednesday.
Woodstock, which trailed 13-8 at the end of the first quarter, shook off a slow start and held a 48-37 led when Kennedy Montgomery made both shots of a 1-and-1 with 1:48 to play. However, West quickly closed the gap. Making shots and drawing fouls, the visitors cut Woodstock's lead to three, 55-52, with 27 seconds to play.
West (21-6) continued to foul in order to get the ball and Woodstock used a steady stream of substitutes to keep its top free-throw shooters in the game whenever it had possession. In a span of 10 seconds, Montgomery was sent to the line twice and game away with three points, while West Forsyth kept pace with a pair of quick baskets.
With 8 seconds to play, Jenna Staiti made a short shot and drew a foul. When she completed the 3-point play, Woodstock's lead was reduced to a single point, 58-57.
Woodstock (27-1) was able to get the ball in bounds and across mid-court despite pressure from defenders. Sutton was fouled with 2.2 seconds to play and swished both for the 3-point lead. West Forsyth looked to Staiti for a long pass near the middle of the court, but she was heavily defended and the ball was knocked away as the buzzer sounded.
West head coach David May said Woodstock played the plan he expected.
"They are a very good shooting team," May said. "They play extremely hard. We kind of knew that's what we were getting into. I think they shot the ball extremely well (Wednesday) night. They made some shots and really made us pay for a couple of mistakes that we had. They just made shots. That's what the game comes down to and they made more than we did."
Woodstock made more shots from outside the arc (9) than from inside it (8). Woodstock was 17-for-24 from the free-throw line, while West Forsyth did not make any 3-pointers, but was 25-for-31 from the line.
Staiti was West’s greatest weapon and for much of the game, its only one. Midway through the game she had already reached a double-double with 17 points and 11 rebounds. She would finish with 33 points and 16 rebounds, despite being double-teamed by Woodstock for more than half of the game.
Staiti was the only player on her team to score from the floor in the first half, although Abby Quincy and Jane Ortlip converted from the free-throw line.
Woodstock coach Julie Crowe said her girls were ready to play on Tuesday, when the game was originally scheduled. After the 24-hour postponement, she admitted they were a bit flat in the first quarter Wednesday.
"Getting them back in the mindset of coming out and playing, we didn't have a very good start," Crowe said. "We executed our defense OK, but we were taking quick shots. At this point in the season, you need to make the most of every single possession. Overall, we had a complete team effort in the end."
Devyn Lowe and Montgomery each made a 3-pointer in the first quart. Montgomery added a pair of free throws to completed Woodstock's scoring. West led 13-8 with Staiti accounting for 11 of her team's points.
The pattern continued in the second, although Taylor Reed and Erin Braxton joined the action for Woodstock. Reed netted a pair of 3-pointers and Braxton made back-to-back jumpers to give Woodstock its first lead, 17-14 with 4:32 left in the first half.
As Woodstock began making its outside shots, West continued to look for Staiti, who kept her team in the game. Woodstock led 24-21 at the half, although several of its players were in foul trouble.
In the third quarter Woodstock made just five shots, but each was a 3-pointer. Reed and Lowe each had one and Montgomery accounted for three as the home team began spreading the court.
Woodstock stalled the ball for long periods in the third and fourth quarters. It forced West Forsyth to change its defensive plans and allowed the Woodstock players to draw fouls, which helped in the end was they were shooting each time they were fouled.
Montgomery led Woodstock with 26 points. Reed added nine and Lowe finished with six. Although they didn't score much, Chandler Sutton, Ashton Sutton and Jessica Alexander were key. None of them scored until the fourth quarter when they combined for 11 points.
Ortlip finished with six points and Quincy added nine for West.
Crowe was pleased with the defense her team played, even though it was outside their comfort zone.
"We got away from what our normal defense is," Crowe said. "We were able to flip a switch and they did a fantastic job."
Woodstock will play its second-round game at Westlake, a 60-40 first-round winner over Hillgrove.