SNELLVILLE — Woodstock earned the first state girls basketball championship berth in school history with a convincing 75-58 victory over Brookwood in the semifinals of the Class AAAAAAA tournament on Friday.
The Lady Wolverines will play Marietta, which defeated McEachern 62-61, in the Class AAAAAAA finals next Saturday at 5:30 p.m. in Macon.
Woodstock will try to become the first state girls basketball champion from Cherokee County since Etowah won the Class AAAAA crown in 2005, and it will hope to join Cherokee (1964, ‘67, ‘68, ‘69, ‘73, ‘76) and Sequoyah (1994, ‘96) on the list of state champions from the county.
Bridget Utberg led the way for Woodstock (22-8) with 25 points and Savannah Casey added 11 for the Lady Wolverines.
For Woodstock coach Regina Tate-Leslie, Utberg — who is already the school’s all-time leading girls basketball scorer as a junior — has been a crucial part of the Lady Wolverines’ drive to the state title game.
“This is my third year at Woodstock,” Tate-Leslie said. “My first year was a challenge. Bridget Utberg stayed. I wanted this more for her than for me. She is a player that has made history at Woodstock. She’s the all-time leading scorer, she’s got one more year. Now, in her junior year, we’re going to the championship game. I think she believed more than I did.”
The Lady Wolverines overcame a 28-point performance from Brookwood’s Diana Collins, who made six 3-pointers. Nekaya Williams contributed 15 points for the Lady Broncos (16-8).
The first quarter set the tone as the Lady Wolverines went on a 9-0 run that turned a narrow 7-6 lead into a 16-6 advantage. They ended the quarter in front 19-10.
“The two players that I challenged (Friday) were Savannah Casey and Sara Grace Bertolini,” Tate-Leslie said.”I learned a phrase (Friday) — pop out. I told them, ‘I need you to pop out in that first quarter and that’s what they did. They attacked the basket, got rebounds, offensive putbacks. Diana Collins is a great player — she did her thing. But Savannah did her thing as well. That first quarter, we just had the role players popping out.”
Woodstock increased its lead to 34-19 with 2:09 remaining in the first half, but Brookwood proceeded to outscore the Lady Wolverines 9-0 — with Collins scoring seven of those points — to cut the lead to 34-28 at halftime.
The Lady Broncos were within four points — 34-30 — with 6:46 remaining in the third quarter, but Woodstock gradually pulled away. The Lady Wolverines were fueled by two 3-pointers by Utberg and one from Casey — to stretch the lead to 52-40 at the end of the period and they were not threatened the rest of the way.
“(Brookwood is) a good team, but my team played out of their minds (Friday),” Tate-Leslie said. “I had people step up who normally would not step up. We’re going to be playing in a championship game and that’s not what I thought we would be doing this season.”