As Woodstock’s girls basketball team plays for a state championship for the first time, players and coaches are eager to show they are not intimidated by the moment.
The Lady Wolverines will face Marietta for the Class AAAAAAA title Saturday at the Macon Coliseum. Tip-off is set for 5:30 p.m.
Before this season, Woodstock (22-8) had never made it past the quarterfinals in 10 previous playoff trips. Marietta (22-5) is in its first final since finishing as the Class AAAAA runner-up in 2009.
“A goal for the entire season has been to play a fast, efficient and a controlled style of basketball,” Woodstock coach Regina Tate-Leslie said. “Sometimes, we play too fast, so we have been working on ball and player movement to get every player involved. At a game like this, every player needs to contribute.”
If Woodstock can win the title game, it would be the first team from Cherokee county win a girls basketball state championship since Etowah won the Class AAAAA title in 2005.
“The girls are excited, as we all are, for the game,” Tate-Leslie said. “It is no secret that this wasn’t our goal for the year, because we really just wanted to get out of the first round. After that, everything has been just icing, so for us, we are here to play and try to win but still want to enjoy the moment.”
In the last two rounds of the tournament, Woodstock managed double-digit margins to earn commanding wins against Newton (64-39) and Brookwood (75-58).
Bridget Utberg led Woodstock to the win against Brookwood with 25 points, and Savannah Casey followed with 11.
“I am excited that (Utberg) gets the opportunity to play on a big stage and get the recognition that I feel like she deserves,” Tate-Leslie said of the junior standout. “I also know that Bridget has been having fun the last three weeks, so I hope that she doesn’t tighten up this weekend. She has trust in her teammates and my hope for her is to relax, enjoy the moment, have fun and do what she is capable of.”
Marietta will be going into the championship off a 10-game win streak. During the last two rounds, the Lady Blue Devils have been cutting it close, beating Cherokee 54-53 in overtime and then edging McEachern 62-61 in the semifinals.
Sterling finished with a career-high 33 points against McEachern, but Marietta coach Derrick DeWitt said the biggest thing for her was she committed only three turnovers while running the offense.
Sterling and senior Lauren Walker will be counted on heavily.
Walker, a Michigan State signee who will be playing the final game of her high school career, comes in leading the team with 18 points and 10.6 rebounds per game. Sterling is averaging 16.3 points, but that number has jumped to more than 23 points per game during the playoffs.
DeWitt, the former coach at Sequoyah, feels like his squad is ready.
“We’re locked in and focused,” he said.
The teams played four common opponents this season, and both found success. Each team faced North Paulding, Hillgrove, Cherokee and Harrison.
Woodstock went 4-1 in those games, including a spilt with Cherokee, beating the Lady Warriors 51-46 in the first meeting and suffering a 72-46 loss in the Region 5AAAAAAA championship game.
Marietta went 6-1 in those games, including a 54-53 overtime win over Cherokee. The Lady Blue Devils’ one loss among the group is also their last loss of the season, against North Paulding in mid-January.