WOODSTOCK — Two of the best shooters in Cherokee County displayed their talents on Friday night and the winning side happened to have both on its roster.
Playing on their home court, Woodstock sophomore Bridget Utberg scored 29 points while senior Carly Henderson added 13 to help lead Woodstock to a 65-49 victory over cross-town rival Etowah.
The win kept Woodstock (21-3, 7-2) in second place within the Region 4AAAAAAA standings while Etowah (11-13, 3-6) fell to fifth in the six-team region.
Woodstock entered the game as the No. 6-ranked team in AAAAAAA and beginning in the first quarter the Lady Wolverines displayed the talent that has carried them throughout this season.
In what may have been her most complete game of the season, Utberg added nine rebounds, eight steals and six assists to her boxscore and controlled the pace of play from the opening tip. A 3-pointer by Etowah’s Ally Zazzara, who led the Lady Eagles with 16 points, cut Woodstock’s early lead to 12-9, but a steal on the next play by Utberg and an assist to Sara Grace Bertolini halted any possible momentum for Etowah.
Each time Etowah made a push, Utberg answered the bell. Still, improvements can be made according to Woodstock coach Regina Tate-Leslie.
“You may have thought we shot well, but I want to shoot better because I feel like we have two of the best shooters in the county in Bridget and Carly,” Tate-Leslie said. “My challenge to them is to increase their efficiency. We still have to do a better job of defending the 3-pointer. Our guard play still has to improve in that regard.”
Woodstock took a 36-22 lead into halftime and if there was any doubt on the final result, Utberg and Henderson closed that door in the first few minutes of the third quarter. The pair combined for four straight 3-pointers to open the second half, with Utberg nailing the first two and Henderson following suit.
After a basket by Savannah Casey, Henderson connected on her third 3-pointer of the quarter which built Woodstock’s lead to 53-29. Utberg closed out the quarter with a three-point play and the Lady Wolverines led 56-39 at the start of the fourth.
Behind Utberg, Woodstock pushed the ball at every opportunity on Friday night. On more than one occasion a steal by Utberg led to transition offense on the other end but Tate-Leslie said moving forward she’d like to see even more possessions for the Lady Wolverines.
“I want transition baskets,” Tate-Leslie said. “That’s why they played us in zone because they know that’s what we’re good at. To me this was more of a slower game for us and we didn’t get as many transition layups as I would like. That all starts with our defense.”
Has to be one of the best players in the ‘22 class. Woodstock’s @Bridget_U has speed, handles with both hands, decision making and vision beyond the norm. One of the best players I’ve seen all season. pic.twitter.com/rP4rtPhW0r— Patrick O'Shea (@Patrick_J_OShea) January 25, 2020
Utberg finished with five made 3-pointers while Henderson finished with three. Woodstock’s shooting was impressive in helping secure the win, but Tate-Leslie also praised Etowah’s shooters after the game, as the Lady Eagles finished with nine made 3-pointers. Maggie Messerly finished with 12 points on four made 3-pointers while Zazzara finished with four herself. Kiersten James finished with 13 points with one made 3-pointer.
Woodstock will close out the regular season at 6 p.m. on Friday at home against Walton. Etowah will play its final regular season game at 6 p.m. on Friday at Cherokee.