For both Woodberry Forest and Fork Union, January’s Prep League schedule has been unkind. That’s not exactly knew for the two programs that sit west of the Richmond powerhouses that have run the show for the last decade and then some. In the last two weeks and change the two programs had fallen in close games too in a combined nine games but with a meeting between the two, one of them was going to get on track.
Thanks to a 25-5 run from the end of the second quarter through the start of the third, the Tigers were able to hit the road and come up with a much needed 54-40 win over the Blue Devils.
“We needed this badly, in the worst way,” said Woodberry coach Craig Dawson. “For us to play like we did defensively was huge, it got us off in transition and that’s great to see. We had a couple of moments like that against Collegiate in a loss but there was more of that tonight to where I think it carried over and that’s a big plus for us.”
Missing one of their most productive players in forward Kyle Bilodeau, the Tigers embraced a guard heavy lineup with Ben Locklear tasked with the dirty work in the paint. It took some time to work, but aggression showed on both ends of the floor by the Woodberry backcourt paid dividends.
“We felt like this was the approach we had to take with our roster, guys that can do dirty work and get gritty,” Dawson said. “This is how we need to go about business, being a grit and grind kind of team.”
Woodberry trailed almost all of the first quarter but with strong defensive play in the back court from DeQuece Carter and Mathew Rooney, the game’s biggest run began in the second where the visitors were able to outscore their hosts 12-5 in the frame only to have a 13-0 run to start the third to make it 41-22.
“We knew we had to win this one if we wanted a chance in the Prep League,” Carter said. “Hopefully this sparks us going into the future.”
The Blue Devils had a hot shooting hand in the first quarter as they built a 14-7 lead off a 9-0 run led by Justice Kiel and Antonio Puaauli-Pelham, but there was an invisibly lid on the rim until midway through third quarter. Fork Union rallied to get things respectable in the third before making it a game again at 41-33 after a 3-pointer from Puaauli-Pelham with 4:47 to play.
“We got down and I don’t that we ever fully recovered after that run,” said FUMA coach James Pelham. “We picked it up in the fourth with a full court press, it was desperation time. The guys finally got aggressive there so that was good to see but we need to be playing that hard in all four quarters. This is just an example of what happens when you don’t play that hard all game.”
However, the Tigers took the Blue Devils run in stride and responded with more defensive guard play from Carter and, Jojo Beale and Noah Adams to force turnovers and create offense in transition. With 6-foot flat Carter throwing down a heavy handed fast break dunk with 2:17, the Tigers effectively put the game out of reach at 49-25.
“It was great, my teammates told me I had to try and get (a dunk) in the second half,” Carter said. “I think they were pretty impressed by it.”
On the night, Carter led the way with 20 points. Adams chipped in 11 points. Ben Locklear contributed seven points. Beale finished with seven points, all of them coming in the second half.
For FUMA, Puaauli-Pelham finished with 15 points, netting 10 in the first quarter alone. James Puaauli-Pelham had 12 points with 11 of those coming in the second half.
Fork Union travels to Collegiate next while Woodberry also hits the road with Benedictine with both contests slated for Friday.